Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
Cleeton v. SIU Healthcare, Inc.
When he was 17 years old, Donald incurred a cervical cord injury, which left him quadriplegic. To reduce Donald’s involuntary muscle spasms, Dr. Espinosa implanted a Medtronic SynchroMed II Infusion System, a programmable pump that delivered doses of baclofen into the intrathecal space of Donald’s spine. The pump was managed by SIU Neurology and required regular refills. A routine refill went wrong, resulting in holes in the pump. Donald died days later.In a wrongful death action, the appellate court affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s motion under the Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-402, to convert a respondent in discovery (Dr. Bakir) to a defendant. Bakir, a pulmonary critical care specialist, was Donald’s supervising physician in the ICU.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The plaintiff attached a certificate of merit in which a doctor opined that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, Dr. Bakir deviated from the standard of care. The affidavit may not have stated the specific standard of care from which Dr. Bakir deviated, but it did provide the court with sufficient information about what Dr. Bakir failed to do based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty—timely recognize that Donald suffered from baclofen withdrawal syndrome, timely order treatment, and timely administer that treatment. The trial court mistakenly required evidence that would establish more than a reasonable probability that the defendant could be liable. View "Cleeton v. SIU Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law
Duniver v. Clark Material Handling Co.
Duniver, lost his leg during a 2017 workplace accident. In 2019, Duniver filed a personal injury lawsuit seeking recovery from multiple defendants. Weeks later, Duniver filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection and failed to disclose the personal injury lawsuit, answering “no” when asked whether he was suing anyone. He then checked “[y]es” in response to a question asking if he had “Other contingent or unliquidated claims of every nature, including counterclaims of the debtor and rights to set off claims.” Duniver listed: Workman’s Comp. On another form, he checked “[y]es” in response to: “Within 1 year before you filed for bankruptcy, were you a party in any lawsuit, court action, or administrative proceeding,” A collections action filed against Duniver was listed, but the personal injury case was not included.The defendants argued judicial estoppel prohibited Duniver from pursuing his personal injury lawsuit and that Duniver lacked standing to sue them where the injury claim belonged to the bankruptcy estate. Duniver then filed amended bankruptcy schedules disclosing his personal injury case. The bankruptcy case was dismissed. The circuit court granted the defendants summary judgment, finding Duniver “blatantly deceived” the bankruptcy trustee and that any claim would have to be pursued on behalf of the bankruptcy estate. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Duniver had standing and the evidence failed to show an intent to deceive or mislead. View "Duniver v. Clark Material Handling Co." on Justia Law
Quiroz v. Chicago Transit Authority
Quiroz was inside the underground subway tunnel connecting CTA stations when he fell from a recessed catwalk authorized for CTA personnel and injured himself. The area near the tracks where he fell was lit. At least two trains passed without incident. He was allegedly visible on security cameras. Another train struck Quiroz in the tunnel, causing his fatal injuries.Quiroz’s estate filed a wrongful death action, asserting that, having discovered Quiroz in a position of peril, the CTA owed him a duty of care and violated that duty by failing to notify train operators of his presence and by failing to stop train service, or, alternatively, that failure to keep a lookout for persons in the tunnel and to monitor the security cameras in real-time was willful and wanton. The CTA argued that, because Quiroz was a trespasser, it owed no duty to protect him from the open and obvious danger of a moving train.The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The appellate court reversed, finding the allegations that Quiroz was a discovered trespasser in a position of peril sufficient to establish a legally recognized duty under section 337 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Section 337 does not apply to an open and obvious danger and no further duty was owed under the circumstances. The CTA is not an insurer of a trespasser’s safety; its focus must be on ensuring mass transit. View "Quiroz v. Chicago Transit Authority" on Justia Law
Johnson v. Armstrong
Johnson suffers from severe, permanent nerve damage, which he alleges was caused by a negligently performed hip replacement surgery. He sued his surgeon, Dr. Armstrong, citing specific negligence and the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. He also brought a res ipsa loquitur claim against a surgical technician who participated in the surgery. Johnson provided one expert witness, also a surgeon, to establish the elements of res ipsa loquitur. The court granted the technician summary judgment, stating that Johnson failed to present an expert witness to establish the standard of care for a technician, that the control element of res ipsa loquitur was not met, and that there was no evidence of negligence on the technician’s part. The court subsequently granted Armstrong summary judgment on the res ipsa loquitur count, leaving the count of specific negligence remaining. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court dismissed and vacated in part. The effect of the summary judgment in favor of Armstrong is to preclude Johnson from proving that Armstrong was negligent under the unique proofs of res ipsa loquitur, but the claim for negligence remains outstanding. The summary judgment order with respect to Armstrong was not a final judgment; the appellate court lacked jurisdiction. With respect to the other defendants, the elements of res ipsa loquitur were met at the time of the decision; no further expert testimony on the standard of care was required. Given that the Armstrong summary judgment was pronounced after the technician was orally dismissed from the res ipsa loquitur count, the circuit court was directed to reconsider that order in light of this opinion. View "Johnson v. Armstrong" on Justia Law
Dawkins v. Fitness International, LLC
The plaintiff alleged that his wife, Dollett, was rendered a disabled person with permanent and irreparable brain damage as a proximate result of Fitness’s willful and wanton misconduct in failing to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) on Dollett in a timely fashion after she suffered cardiac arrest while exercising at one of their facilities. There was an AED and an employee trained to use it on the premises at the time of the incident. The circuit court of Will County dismissed the case with prejudice.The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The Fitness facility where Dollett’s injuries occurred was covered by the Physical Fitness Facility Medical Emergency Preparedness Act (210 ILCS 74/1), which creates a private right of action based on willful and wanton misconduct in the non-use of an AED. For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff could conceivably introduce evidence establishing that Fitness’s employees’ failure to provide AED treatment to Dollett in a timely manner after she collapsed rose to the level of willful and wanton misconduct that breached the duty that Fitness owed to Dollett, thereby proximately causing her injuries. View "Dawkins v. Fitness International, LLC" on Justia Law
Robinson v. Village of Sauk Village
The plaintiff was injured after a high-speed chase, during which officers were following a car that had been reported stolen; officers had gotten within 10 feet of the car in a parking lot and had ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint. The driver sped off and hit the plaintiff. The Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/4-106(b), provides local public entities and public employees with absolute immunity from liability for “[a]ny injury inflicted by an escaped or escaping prisoner.”The appellate court held that the defendants, several police officers and their government employers, did not have immunity under section 4-106(b) for the plaintiff's injuries because the person the police officers were chasing was not “an escaped or escaping prisoner” within the meaning of the Act. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. A mere show of authority by police officers is not sufficient to establish physical custody. The driver’s freedom of movement was directly controlled or limited to a particular place; he was not “held in custody” in the parking lot within the plain and ordinary meaning of that phrase, and was not an “escaped or escaping prisoner” when he subsequently hit the plaintiff. View "Robinson v. Village of Sauk Village" on Justia Law
Schultz v. St. Clair County
Schultz filed a wrongful death and survival action, alleging that the defendants engaged in willful and wanton conduct by refusing to dispatch 911 services, which resulted in the decedent’s (his wife) death. Schultz had called 911, asking that police stop his wife from driving because she was intoxicated. The defendants allegedly first dispatched police to the wrong location and then refused to contact police after Schultz called back. The circuit court dismissed, finding that the defendants had absolute immunity from civil liability under section 4-102 of the Tort Immunity Act and that the decedent's negligence was the sole proximate cause of her injuries and death. The appellate court affirmed, finding that the Emergency Telephone System Act (ETS), 50 ILCS 750/15.1(a), did not apply to situations in which a 911 dispatcher allegedly failed or refused to dispatch emergency services but is limited to “provid[ing] an immunity for failures within that infrastructure and technology itself” and “was not designed to supersede the immunities set forth in the Tort Immunity Act.”The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal. The limited immunity of section 15.1(a) of the ETS Act governs this claim, but dismissal was appropriate because the decedent’s conduct was the sole proximate cause of her death. View "Schultz v. St. Clair County" on Justia Law
McQueen v. Green
A Pan-Oceanic supervisor, Singh, asked Green to pick up a skid steer from Patten. Green saw that the equipment was not loaded properly, and asked that it be reloaded. Patten employees refused. Singh told Green to return with the equipment. In heavy expressway traffic, Green saw that the trailer was bouncing and stepped on the brakes. The trailer swung into McQueen's car, injuring him. Pan-Oceanic acknowledged that Green was its agent, acting within the scope of his agency. A jury ruled for McQueen against PanOceanic, but not against Green, and assessed damages of $163,227.45, finding that Pan-Oceanic had acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others. The jury subsequently awarded $1 million in punitive damages.On appeal, the court held that, when a plaintiff is injured by a company’s employee in a motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff cannot maintain a claim for direct negligence against the employer where the employer admits responsibility for the employee’s conduct under respondeat superior, concluding that the jury’s findings—that Green was not negligent but Pan-Oceanic acted with aggravated negligence—were legally inconsistent, The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the award. The trial court properly instructed the jury that Green claimed Pan-Oceanic was negligent for ordering Green to take the load on the highway after it knew or should have known, that it was unsafe and for failing to reject the load to prevent it from traveling on the highway. This liability did not depend on Green’s actions. The verdicts were not legally inconsistent. View "McQueen v. Green" on Justia Law
Armstead v. National Freight, Inc.
In a March 6, 2015, vehicular collision at a Minooka truck terminal, Armstead, a semi-truck driver with Pennsylvania-based Manfredi Mushroom, was allegedly struck and injured by the semi-truck operated by Roberts, employed by NFI. Armstead filed a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim against Manfredi Mushroom, which led to the execution of a “Compromise and Release Agreement by Stipulation” settling the claim. Armstead then filed a negligence suit against NFI in Illinois. The circuit court determined that the Agreement included a judicial admission that prohibited Armstead from claiming injuries other than a right knee strain. The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court vacated and remanded for dismissal. The circuit court’s order limiting Armstead’s injury allegations resolved an issue that was ancillary to the negligence claims. Permitting an appeal from that order would promote precisely the type of piecemeal appeals Rule 304(a) was designed to discourage. After the circuit court’s improper Rule 304(a) finding that there was no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of its order, Armstead dismissed his action in the circuit court, where jurisdiction remained due to the improper Rule 304(a) finding. He failed to refile the action within one year or within the statute of limitations period, so his action remains dismissed. View "Armstead v. National Freight, Inc." on Justia Law
Thomas v. Khoury
The plaintiffs alleged that the doctors negligently failed to recognize that Thomas was pregnant before performing elective surgery on her and administering anesthesia, pain medication, and antibiotics, resulting in irreversible injury to the fetus. Thomas was subsequently informed by another physician that the fetus would not survive to term and the pregnancy should be terminated. Thomas had a lawful, consensual abortion. Because the abortion would not have occurred but for the doctors’ negligent conduct and the injuries suffered by the fetus, plaintiffs alleged that defendants’ negligence “ultimately caused the death of” the fetus.Responding to a question certified by the trial court, the appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court held that the Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/2.2, does not bar a cause of action against a defendant for fetal death if the defendant knew or had a medical reason to know of the pregnancy and the alleged malpractice resulted in a non-viable fetus that died as a result of a lawful abortion with requisite consent. Section 2.2 addresses only the liability of the doctor who performs the abortion, not the liability of other physicians, and does not state that abortion is a superseding cause, as a matter of law, where a physician tortiously injures a fetus in a separate medical procedure. View "Thomas v. Khoury" on Justia Law