Illinois State Bar Association, April 2013

A Lesson in Drafting and Interpreting Orders: The Illinois Supreme Court Rules that Order Dismissing Complaint was Not Final for Purposes of Res Judicata in Hernandez v. Pritikin

Bench & Bar
Chelsea Ashbrook McCarthy
In the recent case of Hernandez v. Pritikin, 2012 IL 113054, the Illinois Supreme Court held that defendants who sought to invoke the doctrine of res judicata failed to prove entry of a final adjudication necessary for the doctrine to apply.1 Defendants won dismissal of plaintiffs’ complaint on statute of limitations grounds. Due to unclear drafting and ambiguity, however, defendants ultimately lost the use of what could have been a dismissal with prejudice. The facts of this case and the Court’s analysis provide valuable lessons to practitioners in drafting and interpreting circuit court orders. These include: ensure that the court’s findings are in the language of the order do not assume that ambiguous oral pronouncements during the hearing will later be interpreted in your favor; and, if you want the order to have preclusive effect, make sure it is clear.

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