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Wilbon v. D.f. Bast Co.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. BEN SCHWARTZ, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal from the circuit court of Cook County. The trial judge allowed a motion to dismiss the complaint because more than two years had elapsed since the incident which gave rise to the cause of action. This was done pursuant to section 2 of "An Act requiring compensation for causing death by wrongful act * * *" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 70, par. 2), known as the Wrongful Death Act.

The sole issue presented on appeal is whether or not the decedent's minor children are barred from asserting their rights by the two-year limitation set forth in section 2.

The facts of the case are, Lonnie Wilbon was working for Holsapple Mud-Jacking Corporation on the resurfacing of the Kennedy Expressway on July 23, 1971. He was struck by a truck owned by the D.F. Bast Company. As a result of the accident Wilbon was injured and he later died of those injuries. The plaintiff here was living with Wilbon as his wife, and there were two children born to them as a result of this union. She filed this action for the benefit of these two minor children. She is making no claim for herself. This action was filed three years and four months after Lonnie Wilbon's death.

• 1 It has long been established in this state that a minor is a ward of the court and it is the duty of the court to protect all the interests of any minors within its jurisdiction. In 1846 in Cowles v. Cowles, 8 Ill. 435, 437, the court said:

"The power of the court of Chancery to interfere with and control, not only the estates but the persons and custody of all minors within the limits of its jurisdiction, is of very ancient origin, and cannot now be questioned. This is a power which must necessarily exist somewhere, in every well regulated society, and more especially in a republican government, where each man should be reared and educated under such influences that he may be qualified to exercise the rights of a freeman and take part in the government of the country. It is a duty, then, which the country owes as well to itself, as to the infant, to see that he is not abused, defrauded or neglected, and the infant has a right to this protection."

The Illinois Constitution of 1970 abolished the distinction between courts> of law and equity so all the circuit courts> of the state have "original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters." Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 9.

In a more recent case this court said:

"It is the public policy of this state that rights of minors be carefully guarded. (Muscarello v. Peterson, 20 Ill. App.2d 548, 170 N.E.2d 564.) A minor who becomes a party to litigation is a ward of the court, and a duty devolves upon that court to protect his rights. Giles v. Kuennen, 50 Ill. App.2d 389 * * *." Scheffki v. Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific R.R. Co. (1971), 1 Ill. App.3d 557, 561.

In the instant case it is clear the parties in interest are the minor children of the decedent. They are the ones who are deprived of the support, love, and affection of their father through his death. In Kelly v. Kelley (1925), 317 Ill. 104, 110, the supreme court stated:

"The obligation of the father to support his children begins when the child is born and continues during the minority of the child."

• 2 These two minor children, aged five months and two years at the time of their father's death, have been deprived of this support through the death of their father and clearly should be considered as wards of the court in this litigation, and we shall so consider them.

The defendant contends the suit was filed long after the two-year statutory period of limitations had expired under section 2 of the Wrongful Death Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 70, par. 2). We feel a thorough reading of the statutes involved, considering both elementary rules of statutory construction and the rules of our supreme court, dictate another result. Supreme Court Rule 2 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110A, par. 2) provides:

"These rules are to be construed in accordance with the appropriate provisions of An Act to Revise the Law in Relation to the Construction of Statutes, approved March 5, 1874, as amended (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 131, sec. 1, et seq.), and in accordance with the standards stated in ...

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