Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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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

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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

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Antonicelli, was a passenger in a vehicle traveling on I-88. Three lanes were closed for construction. Browder was operating a semi-tractor and trailer, traveling behind Antonicelli’s vehicle. Rodriguez, under the influence of cocaine, made an improper U-turn through the median and collided with Antonicelli’s vehicle, causing it to rotate. Browder was unable to stop his semi and slammed into Antonicelli’s vehicle. Antonicelli suffered severe permanent injuries. Rodriguez pled guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of drugs and acknowledged fault. Antonicelli sued and entered ­ into a settlement with Rodriguez for $20,000, the limit of his insurance coverage. Rodriguez sought a finding of a good-faith settlement, informing the court that the insurance policy was his only material asset. The nonsettling Browder defendants counterclaimed for contribution against Rodriguez, alleging that Rodriguez’s conduct was intentional rather than negligent under the Contribution Act (740 ILCS 100/2). The court granted Rodriguez a finding of good faith and dismissal, allowing the Browder defendants to credit $20,000 against any future judgment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding no basis for the allegation of intentional conduct. The Browder counterclaims alleging intentional conduct are separate and independent causes of action that do not change the nature of Antonicelli’s complaint, which alleged only negligent conduct. Requiring a court to make a determination as to each defendant’s fault before finding that a settlement agreement was in good faith would be impracticable and would defeat the Act's purpose of encouraging settlement in the absence of bad faith, fraud, or collusion. View "Antonicelli v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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David attended a pledge event at Northern Illinois University's Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Vodka-laden hazing ensued. By the end of the night, David’s blood alcohol level reached more than five times the legal limit. David lost consciousness and died during the night. His estate sued the fraternity’s national organizations: the local chapter and its members; and certain non-member sorority women. The circuit court dismissed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the national organizations. The complaint’s allegations were insufficient to allege an agency relationship under which the Nationals would be vicariously liable for the conduct of the local members. An affirmative duty to aid or protect another against an unreasonable risk of physical harm or to control the conduct of another arises only within the context of a legally recognized “special relationship” that did not exist here. The other defendants may be sued for negligence. While no liability for the sale or gift of alcoholic beverages exists in Illinois outside of the Dramshop Act, the court noted the differences between a social host situation and an alcohol-related hazing event. A hazing injury is reasonably foreseeable and is likely to occur; the burden of guarding against injury is small, and the consequences of placing that burden on the members are reasonable. The women were more than guests. They were an integral part of the event and occupied a position of influence over the pledges. View "Bogenberger v. Pi Kappa Alpha Corp., Inc." on Justia Law

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Erie is a Chicago “Federally Qualified Health Center” (FQHC), 42 U.S.C. 254b (2012). FQHCs rely heavily on federal grants and Medicaid reimbursement. Erie Employees are federal employees under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 42 U.S.C. 233(a). Erie was founded as a project between Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) and Erie Neighborhood House in 1957. NMH provides financial support and technical assistance, but Erie physicians seeking NMH privileges are required to apply for them. In 2005, Yarbrough went to the Erie after searching for a clinic that would not require insurance coverage. Yarbrough was informed that she would have her ultrasounds done at Northwestern and would likely deliver her baby at NMH. Based upon information she received during the visit, Yarbrough believed that Erie and NMH were the same entity. Yarbrough sued NMH. based on her daughter’s premature birth, alleging medical negligence. The Illinois Supreme Court answered a certified question: A hospital cannot be held vicariously liable under the doctrine of apparent agency set forth in Gilbert v. Sycamore, for the acts of the employees of an unrelated, independent clinic that is not a party to the litigation. Yarbrough sought treatment at Erie but looks to impose liability on NMH. Erie is neither owned nor operated by NMH. While Erie receives some charitable assistance from NMH, it relies heavily on federal money. Erie does not utilize the Northwestern name, Northwestern-related branding, or Northwestern’s trademark purple color. View "Yarbrough v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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Cohen was riding his bicycle on Lakefront Trail, a shared-use path that runs along the shore of Lake Michigan, when his front wheel caught in a crack in the pavement and he fell. Cohen sued the Chicago park district, alleging it acted willfully and wantonly in failing to maintain the path and was responsible for his injuries. The circuit court granted the park district summary judgment, concluding that it was immune from suit under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/3-107(a), which grants absolute immunity to local public entities for injuries caused by a condition of a “road which provides access to fishing, hunting, or primitive camping, recreational, or scenic areas” or was immune from suit under section 3-106, which immunizes local public entities for injuries occurring on recreational property, except when the local public entity engages in willful and wanton conduct proximately causing the injuries. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed in part. Section 3-107(a) is inapplicable The district is, however, immune from suit under section 3-106. Lakefront Trail is not open to public, motorized traffic and is not a “road” within the meaning of section 3-107(a). The district’s actions were not willful or wanton. Cracks in paved surfaces are unavoidable in climates such as Chicago’s. The risk of injury from the crack was not an extraordinary and unusual risk; there were no prior injuries involving the crack. View "Cohen v. Chicago Park District" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff filed a complaint against Lake County and Highland Park for personal injuries arising out of a bicycling accident on the Skokie Valley Bike Path. The circuit court granted the defendants summary judgment, citing the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/3-107(b), which provides immunity with respect to “an injury caused by a condition of: (a) Any road which provides access to fishing, hunting, or primitive camping, recreational, or scenic areas and which is not a (1) city, town or village street, (2) county, state or federal highway or (3) a township or other road district highway. (b) Any hiking, riding, fishing or hunting trail.” Plaintiff appealed against the city only. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The Bike Path is not a “trail” as that word is ordinarily and popularly used; the words “hiking,” “fishing,” and “hunting” dictate a narrow construction of the term “trail.” If section 3-107(b) stated that immunity applied to “any jogging, riding, in-line skating, or stroller trail,” a shared-use path such as the Skokie Valley Bike Path would be a “riding trail.” However, the inclusion of the words “hiking,” “fishing,” and “hunting” in the same sentence as “riding” indicates that the legislature intended to apply blanket immunity only to primitive, rustic, or unimproved trails. View "Corbett v. The County of Lake" on Justia Law

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Prusak filed medical malpractice complaint in 2011, against Dr. Jager, University Retina, and University of Chicago medical providers. Prusak claimed that from 2007-2009, she received treatment from Dr. Jager for “flashes, spots and floaters in her eyes.” In 2009, she underwent a brain biopsy that showed she had central nervous system lymphoma. She alleged that Dr. Jager was negligent in failing to order appropriate diagnostic testing. Prusak died in November 2013. Prusak’s daughter was allowed to substitute herself as plaintiff, as the executor of Prusak’s estate and, in April 2014, filed an amended complaint, citing the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/2), and the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6) and the same allegations of negligence as the original complaint. Defendants alleged that plaintiff’s wrongful death claim was barred by the four-year medical malpractice statute of repose because decedent had died more than four years after the last alleged act of negligent medical treatment. Plaintiff responded that the wrongful death claim related back to the original complaint under 735 ILCS 5/2-616(b). The circuit court dismissed the wrongful death claim. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The wrongful death action accrued upon decedent’s death, which occurred after the four-year repose period had expired. If plaintiff had filed an original wrongful death complaint at that time, it would have been barred by the statute of repose but a pending complaint can be amended to include a wrongful death claim that accrued after the statute of repose expired. View "Lawler v. University of Chicago Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Walter, age 39, died at home. Walter’s body was transported to the Moultrie County morgue, where the coroner was unable to determine the cause of death. Walter’s body was transferred to Springfield Memorial Medical Center for a full autopsy, where it was received by employees of Securitas, a private security firm that contracted with Memorial. Those employees placed the body in a closed steel case used to store severely decomposed remains, but did not place a visible identification tag on Walter’s body, nor affix an identification label to the case. They erroneously recorded in the morgue’s logbook that the body contained in the case was that of Carroll. Days later, Butler Funeral Home was given Walter’s body, rather than with Carroll’s body. Before the error was discovered, Butler cremated Walter’s body; no autopsy was performed on Walter’s body and no cause of death was ever determined. Walter’s mother sued. She settled with Memorial and Butler, and claimed tortious interference with her right to possess Walter’s body against Securitas. The circuit court dismissed, finding that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to support the allegation of a duty owed by Securitas to the plaintiff. The appellate court reversed, rejecting defendant’s argument that, in order to state a claim for tortious interference with the right to possess a corpse, a plaintiff must plead specific facts demonstrating that the defendant’s misconduct was wilful and wanton. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Recovery in such cases is permissible upon a showing of ordinary negligence. View "Cochran v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Manago was 12 years old when he was treated at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital in 2005 for injuries sustained while he was “surfing” on the roof of an elevator owned and operated by the Chicago Housing Authority. His mother’s complaint sought damages for personal injuries and included an allegation that his mother, Pritchett, had “expended and incurred obligations for medical expenses and care and will in the future expend and incur such further obligations” but did not include a claim for those expenses. The County filed a notice of lien under 770 ILCS 23/1 on behalf of the hospital for Manago’s unpaid medical bills, totaling $79,572.53. Manago turned 18; the complaint was amended accordingly. The court declined to award medical expenses, citing Pritchett’s failure to prove she was obliged to pay the hospital bill. The plaintiff was awarded $250,000 for scarring, $75,000 for pain and suffering, and $75,000 for loss of normal life. His award was reduced to $200,000 because Manago was found 50% responsible. On Manago’s motion, the trial court extinguished the hospital’s lien. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Nothing in the Lien Act precludes a lien from attaching to a damage award recovered by or on behalf of a minor or limits the lien’s potential funding sources to sums earmarked for medical expenses. View "Manago v. County of Cook" on Justia Law