Personal Jurisdiction Exists When a Pleading is Filed Before Objecting to Jurisdiction, Even if That Pleading was Null

February 08, 2014 4:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

In Aurora Loan Services, LLC v. Kmiecik, 2013 IL App (1st) 121700, the Illinois Appellate Court held that a party waives any objection to personal jurisdiction if the party has filed a responsive pleading before filing a motion to quash service, even if that pleading had no legal effect because it was filed after the entry of a default judgment. The holding in Kmiecik is important for appellate practitioners because it demonstrates that even a null pleading can result in a party waiving an opportunity to challenge a court's personal jurisdiction, including on appeal.

Jozef Kmiecik was sued in a mortgage foreclosure action. After Kmiecik initially failed to respond to the complaint, Aurora filed a motion for default judgment. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. On the day the motion was to be heard, Kmiecik appeared before the court pro se and sought an extension of time to respond because he was trying to modify his loan. Id. ¶ 7. The court granted Kmiecik several extensions and ultimately gave Kmiecik a final deadline to respond, with the motion for default being set for a hearing one week after that deadline. Id. ¶ 8. Kmiecik did not appear for the hearing or file any response in advance of the hearing. As a result, the trial court entered a default judgment against him. Id. ¶ 9. Later that same day, Kmiecik filed an untimely general appearance and verified answer, admitting that he was the mortgagor. Id. Nothing further occurred until the property was sold and the trial court entered an order confirming the sale. Id. ¶ 10.

Nearly 30 days after the trial court entered the order approving the sale, Kmiecik, now represented by counsel, filed a motion to vacate the default judgment and quash service under section 2-1301 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1301 (West 2010)), arguing that service was improper and, therefore, the trial court did not have personal jurisdiction over him. Kmiecik, 2013 IL App (1st) 121700, ¶ 11. The appellate court held that under section 2-301(a-5) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1301(a-5) (West 2010)), Kmiecik waived his objections when he filed his verified answer, even though the answer was untimely. Kmiecik, 2013 IL App (1st) 121700, ¶ 18. Importantly, the trial court specified that Kmiecik did not object to personal jurisdiction in his answer. Id.

Kmiecik argued that because the untimely answer was being used as a basis for establishing jurisdiction, it must also be grounds for vacating the default judgment. Id. ¶ 16. The appellate court disagreed, holding that the timeliness of his answer and the subsequent default had “no bearing” on whether he submitted to the court’s jurisdiction. Rather, he simply filed a responsive pleading before he filed a motion to quash service under section 2-1301(a), which results in waiver of any personal jurisdiction objections. Id. ¶ 24. Thus, even if Kmiecik had appeared at the hearing on the default and filed his answer at that time, avoiding the default judgment, he still would have submitted to the court’s jurisdiction because he filed a response before objecting to personal jurisdiction. Id.

Recommended Citation: Gretchen Harris Sperry, The Cart Before the Horse: Personal Jurisdiction Exists When a Pleading is Filed Before Objecting to Jurisdiction, Even if That Pleading was NullThe Brief (February 8, 2014), http://applawyers-thebrief.blogspot.com/2014/02/personal-jurisdiction-exists-when.html.
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