A Cook County judge has ordered a car dealer to pay a Flossmoor woman more than $2.26 million for purportedly failing to withhold child support payments from the paychecks it cut to the woman’s ex-husband, a dealership finance manager the dealer attempted to claim was an independent contractor, and not an employee.
On April 6, Cook County Circuit Judge Bonita Coleman-John, presiding in Markham, ruled Country Chevrolet, located in Herscher, a Kankakee County village about 15 miles southwest of Kankakee, to pay the sum to the plaintiff, Lisa Watson, as penalties for more than two years of delays in processing $7,820 in child support payments it should have withheld and paid to Watson weekly.
Further, the damage to Country Chevrolet could rise higher still, as attorneys for Watson said in a release they are also asking the judge to order the dealership to pay them $861,000 in attorney fees as additional legal sanctions. The judge is scheduled to hear arguments on that sanctions petition in July.
The April 6 judgment stems from a case brought by Watson, formerly known as Lisa Bos, in 2010 against Country Chevrolet and her ex-husband, Scott Bos. According to court documents, Watson and Bos divorced in 2002, and Bos was ordered in the divorce judgment to pay Watson $230 per week in child support. The documents did not indicate how many children Watson and Bos parented.
The judgment included an order requiring Bos’ employers to withhold the appropriate amounts from his paychecks.
According to court documents, Bos worked as a finance manager and in sales at Country Chevrolet from March to December 2009. The documents said Watson’s former attorney sent a certified letter to the dealership informing them of the withholding order.
Court documents said Country Chevrolet’s president disputed the need to withhold the sums, payable to the Illinois State Disbursement Unit, asserting Bos worked for the dealership as an independent contractor, and not an employee.
Watson then filed suit against the dealership, demanding the business pay what the court had ordered withheld. The dealership purportedly sent a check for $7,820, the full amount they believed was owed, based on the dates of Bos’ employment. However, the Illinois State Disbursement Unit rejected the payment, saying the check was not in the proper format. The dealership eventually resubmitted the payment in April 2011, but Coleman-John’s judgment noted it took an additional three months and a further court order to compel the resubmittal.
“Country’s actions related to the withholding notice cannot be classified as a simple clerical error or mistake,” the judge wrote.
The judge further discounted the testimony offered by Country’s witnesses, saying they were “argumentative,” “evasive” and “hostile” when being questioned by Watson’s lawyers, but would suddenly become “forthcoming” and “specific with detail of the same conversations and events” when questioned by their own counsel.
Coleman-John said the law allows a penalty of $100 per day for refusal to comply with a withholding notice. The judge said that penalty should apply to each day from March 31, 2009, to April 7, 2011, bringing the total penalty to $2,263,500.
Watson was represented in the action by attorneys Paul L. Feinstein, of Chicago, and Todd A. Walters and Bart Zimmer, of The Walters Law Group, of Palos Park.
Country Chevrolet was represented by attorney Stephen F. Potts, of Des Plaines.