Can Court Dismiss a Case As Time-Barred Without Giving An Opportunity to Be Heard on a Discovery Rule Issue ?

In Gredell v. Wyeth Laboratories, Inc., 346 Ill. App. 3d 51, 61-62, 803 N.E.2d 541, 281 Ill. Dec. 137 (2004), the trial court scheduled a hearing to decide one issue in the plaintiff's case but ultimately dismissed the plaintiff's entire case as time-barred and preempted by federal law. The hearing was to be limited to a determination, of whether one basis for tolling of the statute of limitations, fraudulent concealment, was proven, reserving ruling on a discovery rule basis for tolling. Instead, the court dismissed the cause as time-barred and preempted, without making a finding on the discovery rule. Gredell, 346 Ill. App. 3d at 62. The Court held the trial court violated the plaintiff's due process rights by denying the parties an opportunity to be heard on the discovery rule issue and the elements of the underlying, cause of action. "Due process of law requires that a party be accorded procedural fairness, i.e., given notice and an opportunity to be heard. Parties who have properly appeared in an action are entitled to notice of any impending motions or hearings. It would be 'unjust, unfair, and inequitable' to allow the dismissal order to stand where it is clear the parties had no notice that such an order was contemplated." Gredell, 346 Ill. App. 3d at 62, quoting Berg v. Mid-America Industrial, Inc., 293 Ill. App. 3d 731, 734, 688 N.E.2d 699, 228 Ill. Dec. 1 (1997).