Illinois Supreme Court rules Chinese company could still have to pay $9 million injury judgment

By Gabriel Neves | Nov 2, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) – The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that a $9 million judgment awarded to a man injured by an allegedly defective vitamin container could still be the responsibility of a Chinese company that sold the product in the containers.

Justice Thomas Kilbride, in the panel of the Illinois Supreme Court, issued a 30-page ruling on Oct. 18, affirming the Illinois 1st District Appellate Court decision in the lawsuit filed by Martin Cassidy against China Vitamins LLC.

"We affirm the judgment of the appellate court and remand the cause to the trial court for its determination of whether the manufacturer Taihua Group 'is unable to satisfy a judgment as determined by the court,' as mandated by section 2-621(b)(4)," the ruling states.

Cassidy sued China Vitamins due to an injury he suffered while working at a feed ingredients facility in Mendota, Illinois, in 2006. A bulk vitamin container, distributed by China Vitamins, allegedly broke and fell over Cassidy. The company denied it manufactured the container, stating that it only sold the products that were placed inside the same containers.

In 2008, China Vitamins identified the makers of the container as Taihua Group Shanghai Taiwei Trading Co. Limited of China and also Zhejiang Nhu Co., the makers of the vitamins sold. China Vitamins was dismissed from the action in January 2012.

Cassidy was awarded with $9 million as a default judgment in 2012, but Cassidy's efforts to collect were unsuccessful. As a result, Cassidy tried to reinstate China Vitamins as a defendant in the case in 2015, and it was granted by the circuit court.

Claiming that Cassidy's motion did not satisfy the statutory requirements, China Vitamins filed a motion to reconsider, which was granted by the trial court.

The appellate court decided to send the case back to the lower court on appeal, claiming, as stated in the ruling, that "the statutory requirement that the manufacturer be 'unable to satisfy any judgment' is met only if the manufacturer is shown to be bankrupt or no longer in existence," and that "the appellate majority in this case interpreted the statutory language to require a showing that the manufacturer is 'judgment-proof' or 'execution-proof' before a previously dismissed seller or distributor could be reinstated as a party," considering that one of the defendants was unable to satisfy one of the conditions.

Kilbride, citing other cases that involved parties that were unable to satisfy requirements, stated in the ruling that the section 2-621(b)(4) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure permits the "trial court to rely on a broader range of factors to determine if a particular manufacturer is 'unable to satisfy' the judgment against it."

Justices Rita Garman, Anne Burke, Mary Jane Theis, and P. Scott Neville concurred in the judgment, whereas justices Robert Thomas and Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier dissented.

Illinois Supreme Court case number 2018 IL 122873

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