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Vosnos v. Perry

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 10, 1976.

RUTH VOSNOS, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN D. VOSNOS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

DANIEL PERRY, A/K/A DEMETRIUS PERRY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSEPH J. BUTLER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DIERINGER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Ruth Vosnos, administrator of the estate of John D. Vosnos, deceased, brought a wrongful death action for the death of John D. Vosnos. The defendant, Daniel Perry, filed an affirmative defense based on insanity. The parties submitted the determination of the affirmative defense to the trial court on a stipulation of facts. The trial court found the affirmative defense a valid defense to the cause of action and entered a judgment in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff. From this judgment plaintiff appeals.

The issue presented for review is whether unrebutted proof of the defendant's lack of capacity to form a criminal intent to commit murder is a complete defense to an accompanying action for wrongful death.

As per stipulation of the parties, the facts are undisputed.

On July 8, 1971, the defendant did shoot, with a gun, the decedent, John D. Vosnos, who died as a result of the gunshot wounds.

Defendant was charged with the murder of the decedent and during the trial on the charge of murder Dr. John R. Adams appeared and testified.

Dr. Adams is a psychiatrist who had treated the defendant from 1957 to 1959. Following the occurrence in question, Dr. Adams saw and treated the defendant and diagnosed the defendant's condition as one of "encapsulated paranoia with depressive features." An encapsulated paranoia is a type of paranoia where disturbances in mood and in behavior are only found in those areas that are touched by particular preoccupations or the particular obsessions. On the date in question Dr. Adams was of the opinion the defendant's condition was not under control and the defendant lacked the substantial capacity to either appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirement of the law.

The plaintiff stipulated that if called to testify, Dr. Adams would testify in conformity with his testimony at the defendant's criminal trial and plaintiff would not offer any competent evidence to rebut said testimony and would stand mute as to the affirmative defense.

The court entered an order finding the issues in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff, who now claims error.

An analysis of the law in regard to the issue presented here must revolve around the Illinois Supreme Court decision in McIntyre v. Sholty (1887), 121 Ill. 660. There, the court was asked to reverse the ruling of a trial court preventing the defendant, in a wrongful death action, from raising the defense of insanity. In affirming, the court succinctly stated the view of the Illinois courts on the subject:

"It is well settled that, though a lunatic is not punishable criminally, he is liable in a civil action for any tort he may commit. However justly this doctrine may have been originally subject to criticism on the grounds of reason and principle, it is now too firmly supported by the weight of authority to be disturbed. * * *" McIntyre, at 664.

The McIntyre decision was cited as authority and relied on directly by the Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, in Roberts v. Hayes (1936), 284 Ill. App. 275, 1 N.E.2d 711.

The court in McIntyre recognized a decision of public policy was being made, and the rationale applied by the court was influenced by certain treatises on torts, by sister State opinions and by the authority of Weaver v. Ward (1616), 80 Eng. Rep. 284, based on the common law. In Weaver the court, after first noting that a lunatic is not criminally liable, said:

"* * * yet in trespass, which tends only to give damages according to hurt or loss, it is not so; and therefore if a lunatick [sic] hurt a man, he shall be answerable in trespass: and therefore no man shall be excused of a trespass * * * ...


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