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Samter v. Department of Public Welfare

MARCH 20, 1956.

DR. BERNHARD SAMTER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, AND ILLINOIS STATE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Rock Island county; the Hon. LEONARD E. TELLEEN, Judge, presiding. Judgment reversed.

JUSTICE EOVALDI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This is an appeal from an order of the circuit court of Rock Island County reversing the findings and decision of the Civil Service Commission, which, in turn, had discharged the appellee from his position as Psychiatrist I in the East Moline State Hospital and ordered his reinstatement to his position with the Department. The proceedings were based upon the provisions of the Administrative Review Act, Chapter 110, pars. 264 to 279, incl., Ill. Rev. Stat., 1953.

Defendants-appellants' theory is that the evidence sustains the Department's finding that appellee mistreated a mental patient in violation of applicable rules and that the trial court erred in holding the contrary. It is plaintiff-appellee's theory that the Hearing Officer of the Commission entirely ignored the law in his findings and conclusions; that the manifest weight of the evidence clearly indicated that the plaintiff's actions were justified; and that the Department's Rule No. 25, on which the Commission's judgment was based, is merely a directive as to the administrative duty of the Superintendent of the Hospital and not a restriction on the plaintiff.

The request for the discharge of plaintiff was based upon the following charges:

"1. Abuse of a mental patient. On September 16, 1953, Dr. Samter attacked patient, Jerry Katapodes, with intent to do bodily harm.

"2. Conduct unbecoming a State employee. By his abuse of the patient Dr. Samter exhibited conduct that cannot be tolerated in the Department of Public Welfare or by his hospital.

"3. Violation of rules of the Department. Dr. Samter's action in the treatment of this patient was a stringent violation of Administrative Regulation No. 25 concerning mistreatment of patients."

Regulation No. 25 of the Rules and Regulations of the Department of Public Welfare of the State of Illinois, reads as follows:

"Mistreatment of patients, wards or members of state institutions under the Department of Public Welfare:

"The superintendent of a state institution shall see that all staff officers and personnel of his institution understand that no mistreatment of patients, wards, or members will be condoned.

"Mistreatment may be defined as: (1) Forcibly laying hands on patients, wards or members; (2) striking, pushing, pulling or shoving patients; (3) corporal punishment of any sort; (4) violence of any character; (5) use of violent, profane or obscene language; (6) use of seclusion in mental hospital; (7) applying restraint at hospitals for the mentally ill without a physician's written prescription; (8) administering restraint or seclusion in the security facilities without a physician's written prescription; (9) any other action on the part of any employee towards a patient, ward, or member which would be injurious to such patient, ward or member, including deliberate neglect or failure to respond to his obvious needs."

As will be pointed out later in this opinion, plaintiff had spent almost his entire professional life dealing with patients in mental institutions. To have reached the grade of Psychiatrist I, after having served as Physician I at this institution for many years, he must have familiarized himself with certain of the rules and regulations of the institution.

As to his contention that the above regulations apply only to the Superintendent and are not binding on plaintiff, reference is made to 43 Am. Jur. (Public Officers), Par. 281, wherein it is said:

"It is settled, subject, however, to a number of exceptions, that in the absence of a statute imposing liability, or of negligence on his part in appointing or supervising his assistants, an officer is not liable for the default or misfeasance of subordinates and assistants, whether appointed by him or not, providing the subordinates or assistants, by virtue of the law and of the appointment, become in a sense officers themselves, or servants of the public, as distinguished from servants of the officer, and ...


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