Cases Pending, edited by Gretchen Harris Sperry and Catherine Basque Weiler, has been updated to discuss the Illinois Supreme Court’s September Term, which begins Monday, September 11, 2017, with oral arguments scheduled for September 12, 13, 14, 19 and 20, 2017. A total of 16 cases will be heard – 9 criminal and 7 civil. The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:
Yarbrough v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital—No.121367—September 14
Corbett v. City of Highland Park—No. 121536—September 19
Citibank v. Illinois Department of Revenue—No. 121634— September 19
Ramsey Herndon LLC v. Whiteside—No. 121668—September 19
Cohen v. Chicago Park District—No. 121800—September 20
In re Marriage of Goesel—No. 122046—September 20
Lawler v. University of Chicago Medical Center—No. 120745—September 20
Below is a summary for two of these civil cases, Lawler v. University of Chicago Medical Center and Corbett v. City of Highland Park. Tomorrow, a list of the criminal cases scheduled for argument and a summary of one of the cases will be posted. Summaries for these cases and others pending with the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, accessible to ALA members on the ALA's website.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE – STATUTE OF REPOSE
Lawler v. The University of Chicago Medical Center
The issue in this case concerns whether a medical malpractice claim brought under the Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/0.01 et seq., can relate back to an existing claim, or is barred by the statute of repose.
On August 4, 2011, Jill Prusak (“Prusak”) filed a medical malpractice claim against Defendants, including The University of Chicago Medical Center, alleging Defendants failed to diagnose her macular pathology, an injury she alleged she discovered on August 7, 2009, leading Defendants to fail to recognize Prusak’s lymphoma. Prusak died on November 24, 2013. Prusak’s daughter, Sheri Lawler, substituted as Plaintiff as the executor of Prusak’s estate. On April 11, 2014, Lawler filed an amended complaint, adding a wrongful death claim. Defendants moved to dismiss the wrongful death claim as barred by the four-year statute of repose applicable to medical negligence cases, 735 ILCS 5/13-212(a). The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, finding that the wrongful death claim was a new action and did not relate back to the original claims.
The Illinois Appellate Court reversed. The court concluded that the wrongful death claim arose out of the same occurrence set out in the original pleading, and that Defendants had notice of both the facts and allegations underlying the medical malpractice claims in a timely-filed complaint. Therefore, the Illinois Appellate Court held, Defendants would not be prejudiced by claims filed after the expiration of the statute of repose. The relation-back doctrine saved the wrongful death claim which otherwise would be barred by the statute of repose.
In their petition for leave to appeal, Defendants argue that the court improperly evaluated the issue using principles applicable to the statute of limitations, not the statute of repose. By doing so, Defendants explained, the court improperly allowed the relation-back statute to supersede the statute of repose.
TORT IMMUNITY ACT
Corbett v. City of Highland Park
The issue presented in this case involves whether, under Section 3-107(b) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (“the Tort Immunity Act”), a bicycle path qualifies as a “riding trail” such that a local public entity is immune from liability for injuries caused by a condition of that path. That section provides that “[n]either a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a condition of *** any hiking, riding, fishing or hunting trail.” 745 ILCS 10/3-107.
This action arose after plaintiff, a cyclist, sustained an injury while riding her bicycle on a portion of the Skokie Valley Bike Path known as the “bunny trail” due to the frequent appearance of rabbits thereon. She sued the County of Lake and the City of Highland Park (“the City”), alleging that they were both liable for the defects present on the path which caused her injuries. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of both defendants, concluding that the bicycle path constituted a “riding trail” for purposes of the Tort Immunity Act such that the defendants were immune from liability for Plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff appealed the entry of summary judgment in favor of the City.
Reversing, the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District concluded that the section of the paved bicycle path upon which Plaintiff was injured, which was located in a semi-urban area, did not qualify as a “trail,” as intended by the legislature. Relying on prior case law defining a trail as being located within a “forest or mountainous region,” the Illinois Appellate Court determined that the path was not a trail and therefore, the City was not entitled to absolute immunity under the Tort Immunity Act. The court further opined that “[t]he frequent appearance of bunnies on the trail does not, in our judgment, call the foregoing analysis into question.” The court reversed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment and remanded Plaintiff’s claims against the City to the circuit court.
In its petition for leave to appeal, the City argues that the Second District’s restrictions on what constitutes a “trail” under the Tort Immunity Act– limiting it to forested or mountainous regions – would effectively preclude any public entity other than Forest Preserve Districts from seeking immunity, would ignore the purpose of the statute, and would lead to absurd results insofar as there are no mountainous regions within Illinois.