Articles Posted in Illinois Supreme Court

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The plaintiff, driving to a doctor’s office, attempted to turn left across three lanes of oncoming traffic. The two closest oncoming lanes stopped, but in the curbside lane she collided with a private ambulance, making a nonemergency transfer of a patient from a hospital to a nursing home, without flashing lights or siren. Plaintiff suffered a brain injury and has no memory of the collision. In plaintiff’s negligence suit, defense claimed immunity under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act, 210 ILCS 50/3.150(a), which provides that any person licensed under it “who in good faith provides emergency or non-emergency medical services … in the normal course of their duties … shall not be civilly liable as a result of their acts or omissions in providing such services unless such acts or omissions … constitute willful and wanton misconduct.” The trial court granted summary judgment for the defense. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the defense judgment. The Act does not limit immunity to patients in the ambulance. The legislature granted broad immunity out of concern that fear of liability would deter people from becoming emergency workers or deter emergency workers from performing their duties. View "Wilkins v. Williams" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Russell, the sole occupant and pilot of an Agusta 109C helicopter, died after his helicopter crashed in Illinois. Russell, a resident of Georgia, was living in Illinois and working for an Illinois air ambulance service operating in the Chicago area. The helicopter was manufactured in Italy in 1989. The trial court dismissed claims against SNFA, a French company that manufactured a custom tail-rotor bearing for the helicopter, for lack of jurisdiction. The appellate court reversed and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that Agusta and its American subsidiary, AAC, effectively operated as an American distributor for the tail-rotor bearings in the U.S. market and that SNFA custom manufactured the bearings at issue specifically for Agusta. By engaging a business entity located in Illinois, SNFA undoubtedly benefitted from Illinois’ system of laws, infrastructure, and business climate and has the requisite minimum contacts with Illinois for purposes of specific personal jurisdiction. The exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable; Illinois has an indisputable interest in resolving litigation stemming from a fatal Illinois helicopter accident. View "Russell v. SNFA" on Justia Law

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Bjork was a nurse for Dama’s late wife. O’Meara was Dama’s dentist. Dama, then 90 years old, told Bjork that O’Meara had been asking for money and that “he did not want O’Meara to get everything.” Dama’s banker, Williams, informed Bjork that Dama wanted to name Bjork as death-beneficiary on a bank account and sent Bjork a “Power of Attorney,” signed by Dama. Bjork signed and returned it to Williams. Later, Dama signed a power of attorney, appointing O’Meara as agent, and revoking powers previously granted to Bjork, then executed a will, leaving his entire estate to O’Meara. Bjork and Dama remained in contact by mail, telephone, and visits until shortly before Dama’s death. O’Meara filed the will and was appointed independent representative of Dama’s estate. Bjork filed citation petitions (Probate Act, 755 ILCS 5/16-2). After the estate closed, Bjork sued for intentional interference with testamentary expectancy. The circuit court dismissed, citing the six-month limitation period of the Probate Act. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Bjork’s tort claim does not implicate concerns regarding certainty in property rights or efficient estate administration. The probate proceeding did not provide meaningful relief and the claim does not seek to invalidate Dama’s will. View "Bjork v. O'Meara" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff (ex-wife) and her parents sought damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant is a psychiatrist who was court-appointed to make recommendations in connection with plaintiff’s custody dispute with her ex-husband, following the 1998 entry of a marriage dissolution judgment. Plaintiff initially requested the evaluation, but was unhappy with the results. Defendant reported that plaintiff and her parents were delusional and that the children should be removed from their mother’s custody and have no further contact with her. A change of custody was granted. The Department of Children and Family Services later made a finding of abuse and neglect against the plaintiff. Plaintiff accused defendant of making false statements and a false evaluation. The trial court dismissed on the basis of res judicata; the appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, based on a separate civil rights class action that plaintiff had filed earlier in federal court against defendant and others for their role in custody proceedings. That action was dismissed for the immunity of such evaluators, and that dismissal was affirmed on appeal. View "Cooney v. Rossiter" on Justia Law

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The railroad was originally sued under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act in 2002 in Mississippi, where Fennell lived and worked and was allegedly exposed to asbestos. He had also worked for the railroad in Louisiana. In 2006, after discovery, the Mississippi court dismissed without prejudice. In 2009, Fennell refiled in the circuit court of St. Clair County, Illinois. The railroad sought dismissal under the interstate doctrine of forum non conveniens. The circuit court denied the motion; the appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, stating that the circuit court did not consider all of the relevant factors. The citizens of St. Clair County should not be asked to bear the burden of this lawsuit. The majority of the witnesses, including treating physicians, are in Mississippi and not subject to Illinois subpoenas. Although the St. Clair County circuit court cited “almost 80 years of relevant evidence as to the defendant’s knowledge of the exposure to asbestos” that were held by the defendant’s Belleville law firm located in the county, the supreme court ruled that such documents can be copied and that this is not sufficient to tip the balance as to the proper forum. View "Fennell v. IL Cent. R.R. Co." on Justia Law

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Hernandez developed Parkinson’s disease, allegedly as the result of his exposure to chemicals at Central Steel, where he worked from 1968 to 1995. From 1995 to 1996, Hernandez was represented by a firm that filed a social security disability claim. From 1999 to 2002, he was represented by Bernstein, Grazian and Volpe, who filed a 1999 workers’ compensation claim, alleging chemical exposure at work. A third law firm was retained in 2004 and filed suit for civil damage recovery, strict product liability and negligence lawsuit against various companies involved in the manufacture and sale of those chemicals; that suit dismissed as time-barred. Hernandez alleged that the Bernstein firm should have advised him that he had other ways to recover beyond seeking workers’ compensation benefits and should have advised that he file a legal malpractice action against the first law firm for its failure to file a product liability suit. In 2009 the circuit court dismissed on grounds of res judicata. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the elements of res judicata had not been proven. View "Hernandez v. Pritikin" on Justia Law

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An Illinois driver alleged that she was injured in an accident with an uninsured motorist in Wisconsin in 2007. In Illinois proceedings her insurer, Country Preferred, sought a declaration of noncoverage and she unsuccessfully moved to compel arbitration. Uninsured motorist coverage was part of the policy, but the policy also provided that “any suit, action or arbitration will be barred unless commenced within two years from the date of the accident.” The insurer contended that the driver had not met this requirement, and the circuit court agreed. The appellate court reversed, persuaded by the driver’s theory that public policy was violated by virtue of the fact that the applicable statute of limitations in Wisconsin is three years, unlike Illinois (and the policy), where it is two years. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, noting that the insured never initiated any type of legal action to settle her claim within the policy’s applicable time frame. There is no public policy violation in requiring the insured driver to bring her suit, action, or arbitration request within two years, the same time period as the Illinois statute of limitations, even though the limitation period in Wisconsin, the state where the accident occurred, is longer. View "Country Preferred Ins. Co. v. Whitehead" on Justia Law

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In 2009, plaintiffs alleged that the defendants, in 1999 and 2000, marketed and sold to them investments, known as the 1999 Digital Options Strategy and the 2000 COINS Strategy, which were promoted as producing profits and reducing tax liabilities. Plaintiffs were charged substantial fees, but the promised benefits did not occur. The parties agree that the five-year statute of limitations for actions not otherwise provided for is applicable. The circuit court dismissed; the appellate court reversed and remanded. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, applying the “discovery rule” that a limitation period begins to run when the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know of the injury and its wrongful cause. The limitation period began to run when the IRS issued deficiency notices to plaintiffs in 2008. The complaint adequately alleged breach of fiduciary duty; that there was no basis for dismissing the claim as legally insufficient. View "Khan v. Deutsche Bank AG" on Justia Law

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Lawlor worked for NA, selling corporate promotional items. In 2005, she began working for a competitor. NA’s attorney, investigating whether she had violated a noncompetition agreement, retained a private investigating firm, giving Lawlor’s birth date, address, phone numbers, and social security number. That firm asked another agency to use the information to obtain personal phone records, which were forwarded to NA for determination of whether any numbers belonged to its customers. Lawlor’s tort claim alleged “pretexting,” that someone impersonated her to obtain phone records without permission. NA counterclaimed breach of fiduciary duty of loyalty by attempting to direct business to a competitor while employed. A jury awarded Lawlor $65,000 in compensatory damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages. The court heard NA’s claim, awarded $78,781 in compensatory damages and $551,467 in punitive damages, and remitted the jury’s punitive damage award to $659,000. The appellate court reinstated Lawlor’s punitive damage award. The Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence that NA was vicariously liable for the tortious intrusion upon seclusion by the investigators. Punitive damages should be reduced to $65,000, given the limited harm and the vicarious nature of the liability. The court agreed that evidence of breach of fiduciary duty was speculative. View "Lawlor v. N. Am. Corp. of IL" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Keeley was acting as general contractor for reconstruction of a bridge. Three Keeley employees were injured in the collapse of a concrete I-beam used to support the bridge deck on which they were standing. They were unable to prove claims against the manufacturer of the beam and the designer of the supporting bearing assembly. Keeley had demolished the beam the day after the accident; they claimed negligent spoliation of evidence. The Illinois Department of Transportation and OSHA had inspected the site before the beam was broken up and left as “riprap” in the creek. The circuit court granted Keeley summary judgment. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the summary judgment. Generally, there is no duty to preserve evidence. The facts did not establish an exception that might apply if there had been a voluntary undertaking to preserve evidence. Keeley’s mere possession and control of the beam did not constitute special circumstances creating a duty, nor is the employer-employee relationship, in itself, a special circumstance justifying imposition of a duty to preserve evidence. Whether a reasonable person in Keeley’s position should have foreseen that the evidence was material to a potential civil action was irrelevant; no duty was established. View "Martin v. Keeley & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law