Cases Pending Highlights Civil Cases in Illinois Supreme Court's March Term

February 27, 2022 12:24 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

The Illinois Supreme Court's March Term begins Tuesday, March 15, 2022.  Oral arguments are scheduled for March 15, 16, 17, 22 and 23, 2022.  A total of 13 cases will be heard -- 7 criminal and 6 civil.  The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

March 17, 2022

Prate Roofing Installations LLC v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Corp.

Midwest Sanitary Service, Inc. v. Sandburg, Phoenix & Von Gontard, P.C.  

March 22, 2022

Chicago Title Land Trust Co. v. Village of Bolingbrook

Holm v. Kodat

O’Connell v. The County of Cook

March 23, 2022

Dawkins v. Fitness International, LLC

Below is a summary of one of those cases, Dawkins v. Fitness International, LLC.  Summaries for this case and others pending in the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, available to ALA members on the ALA’s website. 

Dawkins v. Fitness International, LLC, No. 127561

This issue in this appeal is whether the Physical Fitness Facility Medical Emergency Preparedness Act (the “Act”), 210 ILCS 74/1 et seq., or common law imposes a duty on a fitness center to use an automated external defibrillator (“AED”) when it knows that one of its patrons is experiencing a medical emergency.

The Act requires fitness facilities to have an AED available, retain staff trained in using it, and schedule at least one trained staff member to be present during business hours.  It also states that, so long as a facility has and maintains its AED, “[a] right of action does not exist in connection with the use or non-use of an automated external defibrillator at a facility governed by this Act, except for willful or wanton misconduct.”  210 ILCS 74/45.

Dollett Dawkins was exercising at a gym owned by Defendant Fitness International LLC (“Fitness”), when she collapsed, stopped breathing, and lost her pulse.  Although there was an AED present and a staff member trained to use it, eight minutes passed before a Fitness employee applied the AED to Dollett.  During that time, other patrons attempted to administer CPR and called for assistance from Fitness staff.  Dollett, who has a heart condition, was suffering ventricular fibrillation, which caused cardiac arrest and, ultimately, permanent brain damage.  Leo Dawkins, Dollett’s husband, sued Fitness on his own behalf and on Dollett’s, alleging claims for both negligence and willful and wanton misconduct and alleging that Fitness should be held liable for its employees’ failure to use the AED despite knowing that she was experiencing a medical emergency.  Fitness moved to dismiss the complaint under section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9), arguing that it complied with the Act by having an AED and trained staff present, and it could not be held liable for an alleged failure to use the AED.  The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and dismissed all counts of the complaint with prejudice.

Plaintiff appealed from the dismissal of his willful and wanton counts only. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed.  The court concluded that, in passing the Act, the General Assembly intended fitness facilities to have AEDs available for use during medical emergencies. Because section 45 of the Act explicitly stated that a fitness facility has immunity except for willful and wanton misconduct, the appellate court reasoned that the Act imposed liability for willful or wanton misconduct.  The appellate court rejected Fitness’s argument that the Act only created liability for willful and wanton misuse, as opposed to non-use, of an AED, noting that the immunity provision expressly referenced “non-use” of an AED.  The appellate court also held that, regardless of the Act, Fitness had a common-law duty to use the AED as part of the business invitor-invitee relationship between it and Dollett.  According to the appellate court, that duty required Fitness employees to administer reasonable first aid to Dollett, which could include the use of an AED.  The Act did not clearly abrogate this common-law duty — in fact, it created a private right of action for willful and wanton failures to use an AED.  Finally, the appellate court held that Leo’s complaint alleged willful and wanton conduct, noting that it alleged that Fitness employees knew that Dollett was suffering a medical emergency but failed to use the AED, which violated Fitness’s own policy on AED use.

In its petition for leave to appeal, Fitness argued that the appellate court erred in imposing on non-medical personnel an affirmative duty to use an AED and construing the Act as creating a private right of action for non-use of an AED.  Fitness argued that, contrary to the appellate court’s interpretation, the Act imposes no affirmative duty to use AEDs.  Fitness also noted that several other states’ courts, interpreting similar statutes, have held that they do not impose an affirmative duty to use an AED.  Some of those decisions also held that there is no common-law duty to use an AED.

Appellate Court Decision: 2020 IL App (3d) 170702-U.  Holdridge, J., with Carter, J., and O’Brien, J., concurring

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