Articles Posted in Illinois Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs sued Dr. Murphy and his employer, ECHO, alleging that Murphy was negligent in treating Anderson, who suffered a severe and permanent brain injury following emergency room treatment. ECHO billed Anderson for services physicians provided him during a previous emergency room visit, but did not bill for Murphy’s services during the Code Blue that resulted in his injury. The hospital billed Anderson for supplies used during the Code Blue. The circuit court concluded that Murphy was immune from liability under the Good Samaritan Act, 745 ILCS 49/25. The appellate court reversed, holding that the Act was meant to apply to volunteers, not to those who treat patients within the scope of their employment and are compensated for doing so. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The Act provides “Any person licensed under the Medical Practice Act of 1987 or any person licensed to practice the treatment of human ailments in any other state or territory of the United States who, in good faith, provides emergency care without fee to a person, shall not, as a result of his or her acts or omissions, except willful or wanton misconduct on the part of the person, in providing the care, be liable for civil damages.” Murphy was fully compensated for his time that day. He responded to the emergency not because he was volunteering to help but because it was his job to do so. The agreement that ECHO had with the hospital and the agreement that ECHO had with Murphy require that ECHO physicians to comply with hospital policies, and the hospital’s written policy was that emergency room physicians were to respond to Code Blues. The legislature never intended that Good Samaritan immunity would be available in this situation. View "Home Star Bank & Fin. Servs. v. Emergency Care & Health Org., Ltd." on Justia Law

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In the underlying litigation, the attorney represented a contractor being sued for job-site injuries and was later sued by the contractor’s insurance company for signing settlement agreements without authority. Section 13-214.3 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/13-214.3, sets forth a six-year statute of repose for “action[s] for damages based on tort, contract, or otherwise … against an attorney arising out of an act or omission in the performance of professional services.” The trial court held that the provision barred claims for breach of implied warranty of authority, fraudulent misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation against the attorney. The appellate court reversed, finding that the statute of repose did not apply to an action brought by a non-client of the defendant-lawyer for a cause of action other than legal malpractice. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the dismissal, stating that under the plain, unambiguous language of the statute, the claims “arose out of” the attorney’s actions “in the performance of professional services.” View "Evanston Ins. Co. v. Riseborough" on Justia Law

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In 1998 the Gillespie School District hired Wight under for services preliminary to the actual designing and construction of a new elementary school building. Wight agreed to perform a “site mine investigation.” Wight hired Hanson Engineers to assess the potential for coal mine subsidence. A physical engineer at Hanson sent a letter to Wight, noting recorded subsidence events, including five to six events since 1979, affecting more than 40 structures in the area. The letter stated: “No one can predict when or if the land above the roof-and-pillar mine will subside… The owner should consider the fact that there is no economically feasible corrective action… to guarantee against future subsidence… it can be intuitively concluded that there is a relatively high risk of subsidence in the Benld/Gillespie area. The letter was not attached to the report, which noted some of its highlights. The school was built and occupied, but in 2009 was severely damaged as the result of subsidence and was condemned. The District sued Wight, alleging professional negligence, breach of implied warranty, and fraudulent misrepresentation by concealment of material fact. The court entered summary judgment in favor of Wight, based on statutes of limitations applicable to the claims. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that it was expressing no opinion concerning the merits of various claims. View "Gillespie Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 7 v. Wight & Co." on Justia Law

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Reyes was driving in Elgin when she was involved in an accident with pedestrians, a mother and her four-year-old son. The boy died. The mother and her husband sued Reyes for negligence and wrongful death. American Access Casualty sought a declaration that the policy it had issued to Reyes provided no coverage. The policy had been issued to Reyes on her 1999 Chrysler. She was identified as the titleholder of the vehicle, the named insured, and as “driver number one.” Next to her name, where her driver’s license number should be, was the language “Title Holder Exclude.” A friend, was listed as “driver number two” and identified as the primary driver. An endorsement excluded from coverage vehicle operation by Reyes. State Farm, which provided uninsured-motorist coverage to the mother and son, filed a counterclaim, seeking a declaration that American Access’ attempt to exclude Reyes under its own insurance policy violated public policy and was unlawful. The trial court granted American Access summary judgment, finding that the policy in question provided no coverage for the accident. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court disagreed. Section 7-601(a) of the Illinois Safety and Family Financial Responsibility Law, part of the Illinois Vehicle Code, requires liability insurance for vehicles on the road for the protection of the public. Although the exclusion of named drivers is permitted, exclusion of a vehicle owner who is also the named insured is a violation of the public policy expressed in the statute. View "Am. Access Cas. Co. v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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Two Chicago firefighters suffered duty-related injuries in the 1980s and later died. Their widows each received an ordinary widow’s pension from the Retirement Board of the Firemen’s Annuity and Retirement Benefit Fund of Chicago. The two widows were later awarded annuities available to widows of firemen who died in the line of duty, retroactive to the date of death of each spouse, with interest, because the injuries were permanent and had prevented them from ever returning to active duty. The widows claimed that the calculation of their annuities (based on the current salary of the position last held by the deceased) should include duty availability pay, which is generally intended to compensate firefighters for being available for duty. This type of compensation was created in the 1990s, after these firemen’s accidents, and neither ever received it. Their argument, based on Pension Code language added in 2004, was rejected by the Board and the trial court. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the denial. If duty availability pay may be used for pension calculation, it must be pay that was actually received by the firemen. View "Hooker v. Ret. Bd. of the Firemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The worker was injured in a 2006 automobile accident near Cordova, where he was working temporarily for Venture. Cordova is 200 miles from Springfield, where he lived and where his plumbers’ and pipefitters’ union was. He was living a motel 30 miles from the worksite with a coworker, also from Springfield, who was driving when the accident occurred. An arbitrator denied his workers’ compensation claim. The Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed; the trial court set aside the Commission’s finding. The Workers’ Compensation Division of the Appellate Court granted relief to the worker. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that the worker was not a “traveling employee” and could not be compensated. An injury incurred by an employee in going to or returning from the place of employment is not compensable, because it is not arising out of or in the course of employment, unless the worker can be categorized as a “traveling employee.” The employer did not direct the worker to accept the position at the Cordova location; he accepted it with full knowledge of the commute involved. His course or method of travel was not determined by the demands and exigencies of the job. He was not reimbursed for travel time or expenses or told what route to take. View "The Venture-Newberg Perini Stone v. IL Workers' Compensation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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A 2009 collision on a rural Effingham County highway resulted in the death of a man, 18 years old and not intoxicated. The other driver was a 60-year-old man who was intoxicated and had been drinking in Johnny’s Bar and Grill. The decedent’s parents, who had already obtained $106,550 in insurance recoveries, sued under the Dramshop Act, which has a statutory cap on recovery of $130,338.51. The bar owner had insurance for that amount, but his insurer became insolvent and was liquidated. The Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund assumed his defense. The Fund statute provides that the Fund’s obligation shall be reduced by a plaintiff’s other insurance recoveries. The plaintiffs argued that, if the jury award were far in excess of the statutory cap, the setoff could first be applied to the award, and the award could then be brought down to allow them to recover the full amount of the statutory cap itself. The appellate court ruled that the reduction should be applied to the jury’s verdict. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The Fund is liable only up $130,338.51. The setoff for insurance proceeds should be applied against that maximum liability. The availability of a jury trial is not relevant and the amount of a verdict cannot expand the Fund’s obligation. View "Rogers v. Imeri" on Justia Law

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A February 2008 automobile accident resulted in the death of the driver who was purportedly at fault. His son was issued letters of office to serve as independent administrator of the driver’s estate. The limitations period for plaintiff’s claim of personal injuries was two years. Just before that limitations period was to expire, plaintiff filed suit, apparently unaware of the driver’s death. Her action against a dead person was invalid. Attempts to serve process were unsuccessful, but a special process server eventually notified the plaintiff that the defendant was dead. The Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/13-209, allows a two-year extension of the limitations period under certain conditions, including when a plaintiff moves to substitute the decedent’s personal representative as defendant. The plaintiff did not do so, but obtained the circuit court’s permission to have an employee of plaintiff’s attorney appointed as “special administrator” to defend the estate, a procedure that has no statutory authorization. The circuit court dismissed the action on limitations grounds, but the appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. Upon learning of the defendant’s demise, the plaintiff should have sought leave to amend the complaint to substitute as defendant the decedent’s son, as decedent’s personal representative, and should have then served process on that representative. The plaintiff failed to use reasonable diligence. View "Relf v. Shatayeva" on Justia Law

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When an insurance company authorized to transact business in Illinois becomes insolvent and unable to pay claims, the Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund pays those claims after an order is entered liquidating the company, 215 ILCS 5/532. A cap on individual claims is inapplicable to workers compensation claims under the Workers’ Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305/1. The plaintiff is the successor to Wells, a manufacturer. A Wells employee was seriously injured on the job in 1985, and, in 1993, the Industrial Commission ordered weekly lifetime benefits for total, permanent disability. Wells began to make the payments directly to the employee. Wells was self-insured, but had excess insurance from Home Insurance. After Wells’ payments to the injured employee reached $200,000, Home paid benefits until Home became insolvent in 2003 and was liquidated. The Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund took over Home’s obligations, but stopped paying the employee in 2005, arguing that payments to an excess, rather than a primary, insurer were not payments of “workers’ compensation claims” exempted from the cap. Wells continued paying the employee and sought a declaration that the Fund’s payments should continue. The circuit court agreed with Wells, awarding summary judgment, and the appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting the distinctions made by the Fund between excess and primary coverage and between payments made directly or indirectly to employees. View "Skokie Castings, Inc. v. IL Ins. Guar. Fund" on Justia Law

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The employee alleged that, while at work in 2004, he was involved in an accident that resulted in a condition for which he sought compensation. A Workers’ Compensation Commission arbitrator denied benefits, citing lack of causation, and, in 2009, the Commission adopted the decision. The trial court confirmed the denial. The appellate court vacated, finding that the lower court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The employee had calculated the 20-day time period for filing, Workers’ Compensation Act, section 19(f)(1), using the date on which required documents were mailed to the court, rather than the date on which the documents were received and file-stamped. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the so-called “mailbox rule,” which has applied to notices of appeal from the trial to the appellate court and to petitions for the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s review of arbitrators’ decisions, also applies to commencement of an action for judicial review of a Commission decision, which is an exercise of special statutory jurisdiction. Notice to the other party and the statute of limitations were not factors in this case and, absent a clear directive from the legislature, allowing the mailbox rule in such a case is most consistent with Illinois law. View "Gruszeczka v. IL Workers' Comp. Comm'n" on Justia Law