An Illinois Appellate Court decision struck down a lower court case barring a claim against an estate because the circuit court ruled that the claim was not properly pled to allow the claimant to prevail. Justice Mary Schostak wrote the opinion of the Court. Schostak, prior to her appointment and subsequent election as an appellate judge, was a circuit judge in Lake County, and probate judge with significant experience in these matters. In Justice Schostak’s opinion, the lower court makes the mistake of equating the same standards one would apply in filing a complaint in a civil matter, with filing a claim against a probate estate.
This case involves a decedent who passed away, leaving a will, where an executor was properly appointed by the probate court. A claim was subsequently filed against the estate asserting that the decedent, who was a builder, sold him a house with a number of latent defects in 2005, four years before the decedent passed away. The claim also asserts a breach of the seller’s warranty of habitability in relation to those defects. The administrator filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the underlying claim was barred by the statute of limitations, in that the claimant did not assert the date in which the defects were noticed in order to demonstrate that the claims were timely filed. The administrator also claimed that her warranty of habitability was not an issue because the claimant still lived in the house. The court granted the motion to dismiss.
Justice Schostak, in her opinion, stated that claims against estates in probate court do not have the same pleading requirements that are necessary in civil pleadings, and that it was not necessary for the builder to state when the defects were originally noticed in the initial claim against the estate. The fact that the claimant still lives in the house is not a sufficient defense on it’s own to defeat a claim of a breach of the warranty of habitability, especially when the claimant had undertaken repairs at his own expense. The was remanded back to the circuit court.