COVID Pandemic Did Not Excuse Litigant’s Untimely Failure to Serve Lawsuit

June 28, 2023

Personally, serving a complaint and summons is the fundamental requirement that gives a court jurisdiction over an individual defendant. In Illinois state court, there is no defined time to obtain service. Rather, the Illinois Supreme Court by rule requires plaintiffs to exercise due diligence in a reasonable period of time or else their suit could be dismissed. While the COVID pandemic presented many challenges for litigants in this regard, the Illinois Appellate Court recently held that the pandemic was not a valid reason for untimely serving a defendant with a suit.

In Art Group, LLC v. Village of Dixmoor,et al., the plaintiffs delayed obtaining service on a village and several officials for 16 months. Amongst other excuses, Plaintiffs blamed the COVID pandemic, stating that the sheriff was only placing service in emergency cases. The Appellate Court rejected that excuse and held that the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the court system did not excuse the plaintiffs’ inactivity. The Court pointed to a circuit court general order that permitted litigants to obtain orders for appointment of special prosecutors as a matter of routine via email procedure during the early days of the pandemic. Thus, the Court affirmed dismissal of the plaintiffs’ suit based on their failure to exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining service. And, because service was not obtained until after the statute of limitations had expired, the suit was dismissed with prejudice.

Michael Bersani and Andrea Nikolai represented the Village defendants.

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