Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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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

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In 2010, plaintiff (age 15) was playing floor hockey with 11 other students in his physical education class when a “squishy” ball bounced off his stick and hit him in the eye, causing permanent injury to his eye. Plaintiff alleged that Cunningham, the instructor, was willful and wanton in failing to require the students to wear protective eyewear. Goggles were available, but plaintiff testified that he probably would not have worn them, had he been aware that they were an option. Cunningham testified that she thought the use of plastic sticks and squishy balls negated the need for goggles and that there were safety rules in place. Defendants asserted affirmative defenses alleging statutory immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/2-201, 3-108. The trial court directed a verdict for defendants. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the directed verdict. There was no evidence that defendants were aware of facts which would have put a reasonable person on notice of the risk of serious harm from the activity, which would have triggered the “willful and wanton” exception to the Act. View "Barr v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed by the railroad, as a switchman and conductor. On August 9, 2008, plaintiff was riding in a railroad van, going from a railway yard to a train, driven by the railroad’s agent, Goodwin. The van was rear-ended by Behnken's vehicle. Plaintiff suffered a severe back injury and can no longer perform his job duties. He is employed by the railroad as a security guard at significantly reduced wages. Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51, alleging that Goodwin had negligently cut in front of Behnken and that Goodwin’s negligence caused the accident. Behnken testified that she was drunk at the time of the collision, that she was arrested for driving under the influence, and that she was found to be legally intoxicated two hours later when she took a breath test. Behnken stated that she did not see the van before she hit it and that she either “fell asleep or was blacked out” and did not know if she had her headlights on. The jury ruled in favor of the railroad. The appellate court reversed, holding that the FELA does not allow a defendant railroad to argue that a third-party’s negligent conduct was the sole cause of the employee’s injuries. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Under FELA, the employee cannot recover unless the railroad was a cause, at least in part, of the plaintiff’s injuries. In this case, after considering all the evidence, the jury agreed that it was not. There is no basis for disturbing that determination. View "Wardwell v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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Chase owned the mortgage on plaintiff’s Northbrook home and had the right, in the event of a default, to enter onto the property to make repairs. Plaintiff defaulted in 2007. Chase obtained a judgment of foreclosure. Plaintiff had the right to possession until the redemption period expired on August 25, 2010. On June 17, 2010, Chase’s contractor for inspections and preservation services received a report that plaintiff’s property was vacant and placed an “initial secure” order. Its subcontractors, Gonsalez and Centeno, inspected, knocked on the door, and spoke with a neighbor who stated that the house was not occupied. Gonsalez entered the home and was confronted by plaintiff. Gonsalez left. Gonsalez and Centeno waited and plaintiff stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until the police arrived. No arrests were made. Gonsalez offered to replace the lock, but plaintiff declined. Plaintiff testified that she became afraid while in her home and fearful of attack. On the day of the incident, plaintiff went to the hospital. Subsequently, she sought treatment, therapy, and medication for issues with sleeping, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. Her employment was terminated. She sued. The court rejected claims of private nuisance, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Claims of trespass and negligent trespass are still pending. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Plaintiff did not allege a physical impact, as a direct victim, as required for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress. There is no question of fact as to whether the conduct of Gonsalez and Centeno could be deemed extreme and outrageous, so summary judgment on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim was proper. View "Schweihs v. Chase Home Finance, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff lived in a Klein Creek condominium in Carol Stream. After a 20-inch February 2011 snowstorm, the association's landscaping service cleared the complex’s sidewalks. Eleven days later, plaintiff left her unit and fell on a sidewalk, breaking her leg, knee, and hip. She filed suit, claiming that she fell on an unnatural accumulation of ice. She alleged negligence in failing to properly direct the drainage of water and melted snow, failing to repair defective sidewalks, and failing to repair downspouts to prevent an unnatural accumulation of ice on the sidewalk, and noncompliance with construction and maintenance codes. The condominium association's president stated that he was aware of water collecting on and around sidewalks in other areas of the complex, especially during heavy rainstorms, but was not aware of water pooling in the area behind the building where plaintiff fell. The property managers stated that they were unaware of drainage issues at the back of the buildings. The court found the claim barred by the immunity provided to residential owners and operators under the Snow and Ice Removal Act. 745 ILCS 75/0.01. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that the immunity did not apply because there were no allegations of negligence relating to snow or ice removal efforts. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The Act provides immunity from claims for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks resulting from negligent snow and ice removal efforts, but it does not extend to claims for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from an otherwise negligent failure to maintain the premises. View "Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2006, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) invited contractors to bid on the purchase and removal of three abandoned railroad bridges that spanned Chicago streets. Happ’s, a scrap contractor, had worked railroads for 25 years recycling steel and railroad ties. Carney (dba Chicago Explosive) had a 20-year business relationship with Happ; the two entered “a handshake agreement” concerning the bid. UP accepted Happ’s bid, unaware of the agreement between Happ’s and Carney. Removal of the first bridge proceeded without incident. During the demolition of the larger Polk Street Bridge, a crossbeam snapped. The west girder, which was not secured or supported, fell. Plaintiff, standing north of the bridge on a gravel-covered steel plate, slid forward under the falling girder. Plaintiff’s legs were severed below his knees. Plaintiff sued UP, alleging negligence in failing to discover and disclose to Happ’s or plaintiff the presence of the steel plate and in hiring Happ’s. The trial court granted UP summary judgment. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated summary judgment. UP owed plaintiff no duty. There was nothing in the contract indicating that UP retained control such that Happ’s was not entirely free to do the work in its own way, nor was UP’s conduct inconsistent with the agreement. Plaintiff was an employee of Carney, not a “bystander.” UP did not build the bridge, did not possess the plans for the bridge, did not use the bridge, and had no reason to know that the steel floor plate extended several feet into the roadbed, precluding plaintiff’s premises liability claim. View "Carney v. Union Pacific R.R. Co." on Justia Law

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On May 18, 2009, plaintiff’s 90-year-old mother was admitted to Peoria’s Proctor Hospital for a rectal prolapse. During Kathryn’s hospitalization, she experienced numerous complications. On May 29, 2009, Kathryn died. In March, 2010, plaintiff received Kathryn’s medical records. In April 2011, plaintiff received an oral opinion that Drs. Williamson and Salimath were negligent in treating Kathryn. On May 10, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint against those doctors. On February 28, 2013, Kathryn’s CT scans were reviewed upon plaintiff’s request. Dr. Dachman opined that Dr. Rhode’s failure to properly identify certain findings caused or contributed to the injury and death of Kathryn. In March 2013, plaintiff filed suit under Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/1) and the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6), claiming medical malpractice against Rhode. Defendants argued that plaintiff had sufficient information more than two years before he filed his complaint to put him on inquiry to determine whether actionable conduct was involved, so that, even if the “discovery rule” applied, the complaint was untimely. The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. A divided appellate court affirmed, reasoning that the discovery rule had no application to wrongful death or survival actions because both causes of action were legislatively created and not found at common law and that, even if that rule were applied, plaintiff’s complaint would be untimely. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding the discovery rule applicable. A factual determination must be made as to when the statute of limitations began to run. Plaintiff filed his lawsuit less than two years after receiving the initial verbal medical expert report and within the four-year statute of repose. View "Moon v. Rhode" on Justia Law

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Bayer, an ironworker with Area Erectors, which was hired by Garbe to build Panduit’s warehouse facilities, fell and is now quadriplegic. Bayer filed a claim against Area under the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/1). Area began making temporary total disability payments and payments for Bayer’s medical expenses. Bayer also sued Panduit, Garbe, and a structural engineering company for negligence. Panduit and Garbe sued Area under the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act (740 ILCS 100/0.01). Bayer's settlement with Area was approved, so Area was discharged from contribution liability. Other claims were resolved, leaving only Bayer’s action for negligence against Panduit. Judgment ($64 million) was entered in Bayer’s favor. Under the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/5(b)), Area was entitled to recover out of that judgment the amount of compensation it paid or would pay to Bayer, including amounts paid or to be paid under the Act for medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and temporary partial disability benefits. The court suspended future workers’ compensation payments. The Act provides that where, “the services of an attorney at law of the employee . . . have . . . substantially contributed to the procurement ... of the proceeds out of which the employer is reimbursed, then, in the absence of other agreement, the employer shall pay such attorney 25% of the gross amount of such reimbursement,” 820 ILCS 305/5(b), so Bayer’s lawyers were entitled to fees equal to 25% of the amount Area had paid for lost wages, medical expenses, and other compensable items before payments were suspended. Building on its 1990 holding that the gross amount of reimbursement subject to attorney fees includes both benefits paid before the third-party recovery and the amount of such benefits the employer will be relieved from paying in the future by reason of the third-party action, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the value of future medical care should be included in this calculation. View "Bayer v. Panduit Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2011, Henderson Square Condominium Association sued, alleging: breach of the implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, breach of the Chicago Municipal Code’s prohibition against misrepresenting material facts in marketing and selling real estate, and breach of a fiduciary duty. The defendants were developers that entered into a contract with the city for a mixed use project, the Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland Redevelopment Project. Sales in the project had begun in 1996. The trial court dismissed, finding that plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the Chicago Municipal Code violation and breach of fiduciary duty and that counts were time-barred under the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-214). The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. A condominium association generally has standing to pursue claims that affect the unit owners or the common elements. A question of fact remains as to whether defendants’ failure to speak about construction deficiencies or to adequately fund reserves, coupled with earlier alleged misrepresentations, amounted to fraudulent concealment for purposes of exceptions to the limitation and repose periods. It is possible that minor repairs, along with the limited nature of water infiltration, reasonably delayed plaintiffs’ hiring of professional contractors to open the wall and discover latent defects. The date when plaintiffs reasonably should have known that an injury occurred and that it was wrongfully caused was a question of fact. View "Henderson Square Condo. Ass'n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC" on Justia Law