Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The Colemans lived in unincorporated Will County’s Sugar Creek area, for which separate entities handled police emergencies and fire and ambulance services. On June 7, 2008, Coretta called 911. She was connected to operator Zan. Coretta stated that she could not breathe. Zan transferred the call to Orland dispatcher Johnson. Although procedures required Zan to communicate the nature of Coretta’s emergency, Zan hung up as soon as the call was transferred. Johnson asked questions but received no response. Johnson hung up and called Coretta’s number but got a busy signal. Johnson testified that dispatchers are trained to call the transferring agency if more information is needed, but he did not. East Joliet ambulance 524 was dispatched, for an “unknown emergency.” Unable to enter or get a response, the crew looked in the windows, but did not see anyone. Neighbors approached. The crew said that they could not make a forced entry without police. Their supervisor ordered them back to service. Neighbors called 911. After confusion about the address, a crew entered the house 41 minutes after the initial call. Coretta, age 58, died. The family sued. The circuit court granted all defendants summary judgment, finding that the public duty rule applied and that defendants owed Coretta no special duty. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, abolishing the public duty rule and remanding for determination of whether defendants may be held liable for alleged willful and wanton conduct. The public policy behind the judicially created public duty rule and its exception have largely been supplanted by enactment of statutory immunities. View "Coleman v. E. Joliet Fire Prot. Dist." on Justia Law

by
From 1966-1970, Folta was a shipping clerk and product tester for Ferro Engineering and was exposed to products containing asbestos. In 2011, Folta was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a disease associated with asbestos exposure. He sued Ferro, alleging negligence. Ferro moved to dismiss under ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9), arguing that the claimswere barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/5(a)) and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310/5(a)). Ferro maintained that his action fell outside the exclusive remedy provisions because his claims were not “compensable” under the statutes: the symptoms did not manifest until more than 40 years after his last exposure to asbestos, and any potential asbestos-related compensation claim was barred under the 25-year limitation provision. The circuit court dismissed, holding that the action was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that the term “compensability” must relate to the “ability to recover under the Act.” The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal, noting that the acts do not prevent an employee from seeking a remedy against other third parties for an injury or disease and that Folta had also sued manufacturers. View "Folta v. Ferro Eng'g" on Justia Law