Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
Doe v. Coe
Plaintiffs, Jane and her parents, sued two individuals and several entities including and affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC) after Jane was sexually assaulted by a youth pastor. Plaintiffs alleged that the First Congregational Church of Dundee (FCCD) and its pastor, James, negligently and willfully and wantonly hired, supervised, and retained FCCD’s director of youth ministries, Plaintiffs amended their complaint twice. All counts of the second amended complaint were dismissed as against FCCD and James. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the striking of portions of the plaintiffs’ complaint but reinstated all counts of the complaint. The stricken statements concerned FCCD’s and James’s post-assault actions, which do not support plaintiffs’ claims of an ongoing conscious disregard for Jane’s welfare or a pattern of conduct prior to the assault nor do they make it more likely or less likely that they acted negligently before the assault. The negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention counts were reinstated, as were the willful and wanton counts inasmuch as they overlap with the negligent supervision counts but not to the extent they overlap with the negligent retention counts. View "Doe v. Coe" on Justia Law
Beaman v. Freesmeyer
In 1993, ISU student Lockmiller was found dead in her Normal apartment. Police questioned Lockmiller’s then-boyfriend, Swaine, and former boyfriends, including Beaman. At a meeting including the McLean County prosecutors and several detectives, the prosecutors decided to charge Beaman. In discussing Lockmiller’s relationship with Murray with defense counsel, the prosecution did not disclose Murray’s drug use and incidents of domestic violence against another girlfriend, nor Murray’s incomplete polygraph examination. At trial, the state argued that all other possible suspects were excluded by alibis. Beaman was convicted of first-degree murder. Beaman sought postconviction relief, based on failure to disclose material information on Murray’s viability as a suspect. In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court vacated Beaman’s conviction. The state dismissed the charges. In April 2013, the state certified his innocence. Beaman filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against the prosecutors and detectives with state law claims, including malicious prosecution, against the Town of Normal. The district court dismissed the claims. In 2014, Beaman filed a state court suit against the detectives and Normal, pleading the state law claims that the federal court had dismissed without prejudice. The circuit court granted defendants summary judgment, reasoning that Beaman could not satisfy the elements to establish malicious prosecution, noting testimony that the prosecutor rejected suggestions to investigate other avenues. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The appellate court erroneously focused its inquiry on whether the “officer[s] pressured or exerted influence on the prosecutor’s decision or made knowing misstatements upon which the prosecutor relied" and failed to consider whether the defendants proximately caused the commencement or continuance or played a significant role in Beaman’s prosecution. View "Beaman v. Freesmeyer" on Justia Law
Peach v. McGovern
A motorist whose vehicle was rear-ended sued the other driver. The circuit court entered judgment for the defendant. The appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial on damages, holding that the circuit court erred in allowing admission of postaccident photographs of the vehicles absent expert testimony and that the jury verdict was not supported by the evidence. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The photographs were relevant because they had a tendency to make a fact that was of consequence to the determination of the action, the existence and extent of plaintiff’s injuries, more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence and to aid in the determination of credibility of the parties and, thus, admissible. If a jury is allowed to consider relevant testimony about vehicle speed and impact forces, a jury should be permitted to consider photographs that depict the damage, or lack thereof, done to the vehicles. the circuit court could properly have found that the pictures, when considered with other evidence, were relevant to prove the matters at issue were “more or less probable.” View "Peach v. McGovern" on Justia Law
Stanphill v. Ortberg
Keith's estate filed a wrongful death and survival action against Ortberg, a licensed clinical social worker and employee assistance program counselor, and her employer Rockford Memorial Hospital, alleging that, on September 30, 2005, Keith had an initial appointment with Ortberg; that it was Ortberg’s duty to evaluate Keith’s mental health condition; that Ortberg breached her duty by performing an inadequate assessment and failed to recognize that Keith was at high risk for suicide, and failed to refer him to an emergency room or a psychiatrist for immediate treatment. Keith died by suicide on or about October 6, 2005. The circuit court submitted an instruction, over plaintiff’s objection, asking the jury to respond “Yes” or “No”: Was it reasonably foreseeable to Ortberg on September 30, that Keith would commit suicide on or before October 9? The jury entered a general verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding damages of $1,495,151, but answered “No” on the special interrogatory. The circuit court ruled that the special interrogatory answer was inconsistent with the general verdict and entered judgment in defendants’ favor. The appellate court found, and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, that the special interrogatory was not in proper form and should not have been given to the jury; it did not apply the objective “reasonable person” standard for determining foreseeability and, therefore, misstated the law, Because the special interrogatory was ambiguous, the jury’s answer was not necessarily inconsistent with its general verdict. View "Stanphill v. Ortberg" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Professional Malpractice & Ethics, Supreme Court of Illinois
Palm v. Holocker
Defendant struck Plaintiff, a pedestrian with his vehicle. Plaintiff filed a personal injury suit. Defendant filed an answer with an affirmative defense. Defendant answered an interrogatory about his drivers' license by stating that he had diabetes and required medical approval to drive, but refused to answer follow-up questions about his medical condition, stating that the question violates HIPAA, doctor-patient privilege; the Defendant has not placed his medical condition at issue. The court found that Plaintiff had legitimate cause to believe that Defendant had sight problems that could have been related to the accident and held Defendant’s attorney in contempt. The court found the attorney was not entitled to assert the physician-patient privilege, 735 ILCS 5/8-802. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s reversal of the contempt order. A plaintiff may not waive a defendant’s privilege by putting the defendant’s medical condition at issue. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant asserted anything about defendant’s physical or mental condition. If these allegations put a defendant’s medical condition in issue, then it will be at issue in most traffic accident cases. The court urged the legislature to clarify the meaning of “at issue” and noted that, when a patient obtains a physician’s report to maintain his driving privileges, he is not seeking treatment so the privilege does not apply to the record filed with the Secretary of State. View "Palm v. Holocker" on Justia Law
Posted in: Health Law, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Professional Malpractice & Ethics, Supreme Court of Illinois
A&R Janitorial v. Pepper Construction Co.
Mroczko was employed by A&R as a custodian in a building where Pepper was performing maintenance work. Pepper's subcontractor, Perez, was replacing the carpets. While Mroczko was cleaning, a desk that had been placed in an upright position fell and injured her. Mroczko filed a successful workers’ compensation claim against A&R but failed to file a timely personal injury action. A&R filed a subrogation action. The Workers’ Compensation Act. 820 ILCS 305/5(b), permits an employee to file her own personal injury action against a third-party tortfeasor to recover damages for a work injury. The employer is entitled to reimbursement of its workers’ compensation benefits out of the proceeds obtained by the employee and has a limited right to intervene to protect its workers’ compensation lien. If the employee fails to file her own action, the employer may file the same action that the employee could have filed. The statute is silent as to whether an employee has the right to intervene in the employer's action. While A&R’s litigation was pending, Mroczko filed her own personal injury action, which was dismissed as barred by the two-year statute of limitations. Mroczko filed an amended complaint against Pepper only, alleging that her injuries arose out of Pepper’s construction work so that her action was timely under the four-year construction statute of limitations. The court dismissed the action. Mroczko then sought to intervene in A&R’s subrogation action. The circuit court denied that petition, citing res judicata. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Whether Mroczko had an interest in A&R’s action based on A&R’s pursuit of damages, including for her pain and suffering, is irrelevant to res judicata, which applies because Mroczko previously asserted the same claim against the same defendant, which resulted in a final judgment on the merits. View "A&R Janitorial v. Pepper Construction Co." on Justia Law
Sperl v. Henry
CHR, a logistics company, had a transportation contract with Jewel Food Stores. Henry, who owned a semi-tractor that she leased to Dragonfly, a federally licensed motor carrier, agreed to deliver potatoes to CHR’s Illinois, warehouse for shipment to Jewel stores. While delivering the potatoes, Henry was unable to stop her tractor-trailer ahead of stopped traffic and ran over several vehicles. Two people died and one was seriously injured. Henry admitted negligence and liability. Dragonfly admitted liability and a “united” negligence with Henry. CHR denied liability. The jury returned plaintiffs verdicts, specifically finding that Henry was CHR’s agent. CHR was, therefore, vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The jury awarded damages totaling $23,775,000, jointly and severally, against the three. CHR paid the judgments, including post-judgment interest, then filed an amended consolidated cross-claim for contribution against Dragonfly under the Contribution Act. (740 ILCS 100/2, 3). Both stipulated that Henry had no assets. CHR asserted that it had a right to contribution, even if Dragonfly’s liability was vicarious, because the parties would be equally liable in those circumstances but CHR paid the entire amount. The trial court entered judgment for CHR for contribution of $14,326,665.54. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed, rejecting CHR’s argument that it was entitled to a greater level of contribution based on a difference in relative culpability. Both were only vicariously liable for Henry’s negligent conduct. CHR is entitled to contribution from Dragonfly under the Contribution Act. View "Sperl v. Henry" on Justia Law
Gonzalez v. Union Health Service, Inc.
The administrator of the decedent’s estate brought a wrongful death and survival action against Union Health Service based on alleged negligence in providing medical treatment the decedent. UHS moved to dismiss on the grounds that it is immune from suit under the Voluntary Health Services Plans Act (215 ILCS 165/26), as a “health services plan corporation”. The Act provides: A health services plan corporation incorporated prior to January 1, 1965, operated on a not for profit basis, and neither owned or controlled by a hospital shall not be liable for injuries resulting from negligence, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance or malpractice on the part of any officer or employee of the corporation, or on the part of any person, organization, agency or corporation rendering health services to the health services plan corporation’s subscribers and beneficiaries.” The circuit court denied the motion, reasoning that a 1988 amendment to section 26 was unconstitutional because it left intact UHS’s statutory immunity while eliminating that immunity for all other similarly situated entities. The Illinois Supreme court reversed. UHS was also immune under the prior version of the law. The former version of the law has been upheld by our appellate court against constitutional attack. addressing the constitutionality of the 1988 amendment is not necessary for resolution of this case. View "Gonzalez v. Union Health Service, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Professional Malpractice & Ethics, Supreme Court of Illinois
Monson v. City of Danville
Monson was shopping in Danville. Walking to her car, she felt her foot hit a piece of concrete, tripped and fell onto the sidewalk, sustaining injuries. Public Works Director Ahrens made final decisions about which sections would be repaired during a project to inspect and repair sidewalks that ended in March 2012. Ahrens considered the concrete’s condition; variations between slabs; the path of pedestrian travel; the area’s intended use; proximity to other structures; and available time and cost. There was no policy addressing these factors. Ahrens could not recall inspecting the section but stated, "we … looked at every slab” and that the section where Monson fell was “either not prioritized” or “replacement could not fit with the allowable time and budget ... I used my discretion.” In Monson’s lawsuit, the court granted the city summary judgment, citing the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/2-109, 2-201). The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. A negligence claim based on a municipality’s violation of the duty to maintain its property can be subject to discretionary immunity under section 2-201 if the employee held either a position involving the determination of policy or a position involving the exercise of discretion and the act or omission giving rise to the injuries was a determination of policy and an exercise of discretion; ministerial acts are not immune. Decisions involving repairs to public property can be discretionary, so a public entity claiming immunity for an alleged failure to repair a defective condition must present sufficient evidence that it made a conscious decision not to perform the repair. Danville has not done so. View "Monson v. City of Danville" on Justia Law
Thounsavath v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
State Farm issued two policies of motor vehicle insurance to plaintiff, covering a Pontiac Grand Am and a Pontiac GTO. Each policy provided liability, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist coverage in the amounts of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Each contained a “Driver Exclusion Endorsement” that excluded Evans. Plaintiff was a passenger in a Hyundai automobile that was owned and operated by Evans when Evans’s vehicle was involved in an accident with another automobile. Evans was at fault. Plaintiff was injured and had more than $30,000 in medical bills. Evans’s insurer paid plaintiff $20,000, the policy limit. State Farm denied plaintiff's claim for underinsured motorist coverage. The circuit court granted plaintiff summary judgment. The appellate court and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, citing the Illinois Safety and Family Financial Responsibility Law (625 ILCS 5/7-601(a)), under which no one may operate a motor vehicle or allow a vehicle to be operated without obtaining sufficient insurance, and the Insurance Code (215 ILCS 5/143a, 143a-2), requiring automobile liability insurance policies to include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The court reasoned that the named driver exclusion violated Illinois mandatory insurance requirements and public policy where the exclusion barred coverage for the named insured. View "Thounsavath v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law