Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People Ex Rel. Noren v. Dempsey







This is an original action of mandamus and the question it presents is whether the trial court has power to order the plaintiff in a personal injury action to submit to a physical examination. Robert Noren, the petitioner, is the plaintiff in an action pending in the superior court of Cook County, in which he seeks to recover damages for personal injuries that he alleges were suffered in an automobile accident caused by the negligence of the defendant.

Howard Strong, Jr., defendant in that action, filed a verified petition in which he alleged that he needed information as to the nature and extent of the plaintiff's injuries in order to prepare for trial, and that he had no means of getting that information without an independent physical examination of the plaintiff. He requested the entry of an order requiring the plaintiff to submit to a physical examination by a physician chosen by the defendant, with all incidental expenses to be borne by defendant.

The respondent, Hon. John T. Dempsey, a judge of the circuit court of Cook County, who was hearing the combined motion call of the circuit and superior courts, entered an order that required the plaintiff to submit to an examination by a named doctor at a specified time and place. The order further provided that a physician of the plaintiff's choosing might be present during the examination and that the plaintiff should be given a copy of the report and findings of the examining doctor.

The plaintiff then sought and was granted leave to file an original petition for mandamus in this court. The petition stated the foregoing facts and prayed for the entry of an order directing the respondent to expunge the order that he entered. Respondent moved to dismiss the petition. Judgment of this court denying the writ was entered at the conclusion of the oral argument, and this opinion states the reasons for that judgment.

The attack upon the order directing plaintiff to submit to a physical examination is based upon an asserted lack of power in the court to enter it. Because the view that our courts lack that power has been stated in many opinions of this court, we turn at once to a consideration of the pertinent cases.

In the first of them, City of Freeport v. Isbell, 93 Ill. 381, (1879), the plaintiff claimed that he was suffering from Bright's disease as a result of a fall on a defective sidewalk. He was asked whether he would furnish a specimen of his urine for examination, and an objection to the question was sustained. This ruling was held to be error. The court applied the customary rule that permits adverse inferences to be drawn against one who conceals evidence, and held that the plaintiff's refusal might be put before the jury to indicate that the claimed injury to the kidneys was fictitious.

Three years later, in 1882, the court decided Parker v. Enslow, 102 Ill. 272, in which the doctrine of lack of power was first asserted. The action was assumpsit on a promissory note. The defendant had put explosive powder in a box of smoking tobacco kept on a counter in his grocery store. The plaintiff had filled his pipe from the box, and when he lit it the powder exploded, injuring his eyes. The note sued upon was given in settlement of plaintiff's claim for damages. The defense was want of consideration. The condition of plaintiff's eyes at the time of trial was only speculatively relevant, at best. Nevertheless the court stated the question and launched the doctrine of want of power in three sentences, without citation of authority. "Complaint is also made that the court refused to compel appellee to submit his eyes to the examination of a physician in the presence of the jury. There was no error in this. The court had no power to make or enforce such an order." 102 Ill. at 279.

In Chicago and Eastern Railroad Co. v. Holland, 122 Ill. 461, (1887), and in St. Louis Bridge Co. v. Miller, 138 Ill. 465, (1891), the question of power was expressly left open. In each case the trial court had refused to order an examination. It was pointed out in the Holland case that the plaintiff had submitted to examination by several of defendant's doctors, and in the Miller case that no showing had been made that an examination was necessary or proper to promote the ends of justice.

In each of the next two cases, Joliet Street Railway Co. v. Call, 143 Ill. 177 (1892), and Peoria, Decatur and Evansville Railway Co. v. Rice, 144 Ill. 227 (1893), the court relied on the rule of Parker v. Enslow, but in each case it also emphasized the insufficiency of the showing as to the necessity for a physical examination. In the Rice case it appeared that the plaintiff had previously been examined by two physicians under an order entered by the trial court. And in that case the court pointed out that a defendant was not likely to be hurt by the rule of Parker v. Enslow, because evidence of the plaintiff's refusal to submit to examination could be put before the jury.

Richardson v. Nelson, 221 Ill. 254, (1906), rested squarely on Parker v. Enslow and want of power. In City of Chicago v. McNally, 227 Ill. 14, (1907), the defendant asked the plaintiff, before the jury, whether she was willing to submit to a physical examination. An objection was sustained. The court did not decide whether the plaintiff should be required to answer, because the question was not in proper form. But the opinion pointed out that in any event the defendant was not hurt, because it was permitted to argue the refusal to the jury. The opinion in Pronskevitch v. Chicago and Alton Railway Co. 232 Ill. 136, (1908), repeated the statement that the court was without power to order an examination, but pointed out that the defendant was not hurt because plaintiff had agreed to an examination before the jury, while defendant apparently insisted on one outside the presence of the jury.

In Mattice v. Klawans, 312 Ill. 299, (1924), citing only City of Chicago v. McNally, the court held that the plaintiff could not be asked before the jury whether he would submit to an examination, because the effect of permitting the question would be to require plaintiff to submit. People v. Scott, 326 Ill. 327, (1927), involved a sanity hearing after defendant had been found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. It was held error to allow the State to prove that the defendant had refused to permit doctors appointed by the court to examine him, and it was also held that the trial court was without authority to appoint alienists to examine the defendant with a view to testifying as the court's witnesses. The Mattice case was adhered to, with two judges dissenting, in Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Co. v. Benson, 352 Ill. 195, (1933).

The net of these cases is that it has been said many times that our courts lack the power to require a plaintiff in a personal injury case to submit to a physical examination. But what is most striking about them is that no reason for the asserted want of power has ever been stated, nor has the problem ever been analyzed. It has been ipse dixit from the outset. Yet Wigmore's classic treatment of the problem (Wigmore, Evidence, 3d ed., sec. 2220,) makes it clear that the common law, from earliest times, permitted and required physical examinations where they were necessary. And other courts have recognized an inherent power to require them when the ends of justice require. S.S. Kresge Co. v. Trester, 123 Ohio St. 383, 175 N.E. 611; Brown v. Hultzler Bros. Co. 152 Md. 39, 136 A. 30; Cook v. Miller, 103 Conn. 267, 130 A. 571; Cohen v. Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co. 250 Pa. 15, 95 A. 315.

The court seems to have lacked full confidence in the theory of want of power, for in many cases in which decision could have been rested on that ground alone, if indeed it was the basis of decision, the court has been at pains to point to circumstances that would have made the exercise of the power inappropriate if it existed. In every case the judgment of the trial court has been affirmed, and in no case has a judgment been reversed because the trial court ordered the plaintiff to submit to an examination. None of the cases in which lack of power was asserted involved an effort by a defendant to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.