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Rosenberg v. Packerland Packing Co.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 13, 1977.

EDWARD D. ROSENBERG ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS-APPELLEES,

v.

PACKERLAND PACKING CO., INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR SULLIVAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE PUSATERI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

In this consolidated appeal, we are concerned with whether each count of plaintiffs' three-count second amended complaint states a cause of action. In cause No. 76-1263, plaintiffs-appellants appeal from the dismissal of counts I and III of their complaint for failure to state a cause of action. Cause No. 76-927 is an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110A, par. 308) from an order of the circuit court of Cook County denying defendant's motion to dismiss count II of the complaint for failure to state a cause of action and identifying the following question of law for our review:

"Under what circumstances may [a] principal be liable for the outrageous conduct of its agent causing the intentional infliction of mental anguish where there is no contact or impact with the victim."

In each count of the second amended complaint, plaintiffs, Edward D. Rosenberg, Virginia S. Rosenberg and Nina and Beth Rosenberg, alleged that an agent, servant, or lessee of defendant Packerland Packing Co. controlled its tractor and trailer, which defendant owned and operated as an interstate common carrier, in such a manner as to come within two feet of plaintiffs' vehicle at speeds of 70 to 80 miles per hour, and even after signaling by the plaintiffs that said truck should pass them, the unknown operator of defendant's truck continued to make feints at the rear of plaintiffs' vehicle as if he were going to strike the plaintiffs' vehicle, all of this occurring over a "long span of time." It was alleged that the date of the occurrence was March 9, 1975, that the place of occurrence was I-94 in Lake County, Illinois, and that both vehicles were proceeding in a southerly direction.

Count I alleged that the truck driver's conduct constituted the negligent infliction of emotional distress and a negligent assault, and that defendant Packerland was liable under respondeat superior and for negligently allowing one of its agents and/or lessees to operate its truck when it knew or should have known said operator was emotionally and mentally unstable and unsuitable as an operator, was so negligent that he would cause and strike fear into other persons using roadways reserved to the general public, and was probably insane.

Count II alleged that the truck driver's conduct constituted the intentional infliction of emotional distress and an intentional assault, and that defendant Packerland was liable under respondeat superior and for wilfully, wantonly, or intentionally allowing one of its agents and/or lessees to operate its truck when it knew or should have known said operator was emotionally and mentally unstable and unsuitable as an operator, had a disposition for intentional conduct which would cause or strike fear into other persons using roadways reserved for the general public, and was probably insane.

Count III alleged that the truck driver's conduct was performed negligently, gross negligently, in wilful disregard for the safety of others, or intentionally and in violation of certain Federal regulations. Further, that defendant Packerland was liable under respondeat superior and individually for negligently and/or gross negligent and/or in wilful disregard for the safety of others and/or intentionally: (a) allowing one of its agents and/or lessees to operate its truck when it knew or should have known said operator was emotionally and mentally unstable and unsuitable as an operator, had a disposition for intentional conduct which would cause and strike fear into other persons using roadways reserved for the general public, and was probably insane; and (b) permitting its trucks to operate in violation of the Federal regulations applicable to interstate commerce.

• 1 "At the outset we are mindful of the basic principles that defendant['s] motion to dismiss admits as true for the purpose of the motion, all facts well pleaded together with all reasonable inferences which could be drawn from these facts." (Hubbard v. Aetna Insurance Co. (1st Dist. 1976), 37 Ill. App.3d 666, 669, 347 N.E.2d 396.) However, as said in O'Fallon Development Co. v. Ring (1967), 37 Ill.2d 84, 88, 224 N.E.2d 782, "* * * a motion to dismiss admits facts well pleaded; but it admits them only for the purpose of determining whether, as a matter of law, those facts state a claim upon which relief may be granted." See Fancil v. Q.S.E. Foods, Inc. (1975), 60 Ill.2d 552, 554, 328 N.E.2d 538.

• 2, 3 Plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action under count I for the negligent infliction of severe emotional distress since they failed to allege bodily injury and since there was no physical impact between the vehicles or upon the plaintiffs' persons. (Braun v. Craven (1898), 175 Ill. 401, 51 N.E. 657; Benza v. Shulman Air Freight (1st Dist. 1977), 46 Ill. App.3d 521, 361 N.E.2d 91.) Plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action under this same count for a "negligent" assault; assault is an intentional tort. "There is, properly speaking, no such thing as a negligent assault." Prosser, Torts § 10, at 41 (4th ed. 1971).

• 4, 5 As to count II, physical injury need not be present to sustain a cause of action for the intentional infliction of severe emotional distress; nor is physical impact upon the plaintiffs' person required. (Knierim v. Izzo (1961), 22 Ill.2d 73, 174 N.E.2d 157; Pierce v. Board of Education (1st Dist. 1976), 44 Ill. App.3d 324, 358 N.E.2d 67.) We note also that in Public Finance Corp. v. Davis (1976), 66 Ill.2d 85, 90, 360 N.E.2d 765, in speaking of the type of conduct which gives rise to a cause of action for intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, our supreme court stated that the conduct must be extreme and outrageous, "* * * `so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency * * *.' Restatement (Second) of Torts, sec. 46, comment d (1965)." The court also stated that the emotional distress must be severe, "* * * Although fright, horror, grief, shame, humiliation, worry, etc. may fall within the ambit of the term `emotional distress,' these mental conditions alone are not actionable. `The law intervenes only where the distress inflicted is so severe that no reasonable man could be expected to endure it. * * *' Comment j. See also Prosser, Law of Torts, sec. 12, at 54 (4th ed. 1971)."

• 6 Under the facts alleged in count II, we find that the unknown truck driver's conduct may constitute extreme and outrageous conduct calculated to cause severe emotional distress. Further, we believe the conduct alleged in count II may constitute the intentional tort of assault. An assault is a reasonable apprehension of an imminent battery. See Prosser, Torts §§ 9-10, at 34-41 (4th ed. 1971).

• 7 Defendant Packerland would not be vicariously liable under respondeat superior for its driver's intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, since such conduct would be outside the scope of the driver's employment. (Nelson v. Nuccio (1st Dist. 1971), 131 Ill. App.2d 261, 264, 268 N.E.2d 543.) Neither would defendant Packerland be liable under respondeat superior for its driver's assault, as it is without the scope of employment for it was not in furtherance of the master's business. Tatham v. Wabash R.R. Co. (1952), 412 Ill. 568, 107 N.E.2d 735; Hoover v. University of Chicago Hospitals (1st Dist. 1977), 51 Ill. App.3d 263, 366 N.E.2d 925; Bolwin v. El Kay Manufacturing Co. (1st Dist. 1975), 32 Ill. App.3d 138, 336 N.E.2d 502; Awe v. Striker (4th Dist. 1970), 129 Ill. App.2d 478, 263 N.E.2d 345; Pascoe v. Meadowmoor Dairies (1st Dist. 1963), 41 Ill. App.2d 52, 190 N.E.2d 156; Bonnem v. Harrison (2d Dist. 1958), 17 Ill. App.2d 292, 150 N.E.2d 383; Shannessy v. Walgreen Co. (1st Dist. 1945), 324 Ill. App. 590, 59 N.E.2d 330; Ewald v. Pielet Scrap Iron & Metal Co. (1st Dist. 1941), 310 Ill. App. 218, 33 N.E.2d 930; Bremen State Bank v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. (7th Cir. 1970), 427 F.2d 425.

• 8 Plaintiffs contend that defendant Packerland should be held liable under count II for intentionally hiring an unstable driver, while defendant Packerland argues that plaintiffs are attempting to espouse a theory of negligent hiring in count II. We agree that out courts> recognize a cause of action for negligent or reckless hiring of an employee who commits a criminal or intentional act outside the scope of employment. (Tatham v. Wabash R.R. Co. (1952), 412 Ill. 568, 107 N.E.2d 735; Becken v. Manpower, Inc. (7th Cir. 1976), 532 F.2d 56.) However, we construe count II to allege an entrustment theory; that defendant Packerland wilfully, wantonly, or intentionally entrusted its truck to a driver it knew or should have known was emotionally and mentally unstable and unsuitable, had a disposition for intentional conduct which would cause or strike fear into other persons using roadways reserved for the general public, and was probably insane. A motion to dismiss does not lie if a good cause of action is stated, although not the one intended by plaintiff(s). Browning v. Heritage Insurance Co. (2d Dist. 1975), 33 Ill. App.3d 943, 947, 338 N.E.2d 912; Nichols, Illinois Civil Practice § 1413 (1961).

• 9 Our courts> recognize liability from the act of entrustment of a motor vehicle to one whose incompetency, inexperience or recklessness is known or should have been known by the owner or entruster of the vehicle. Barton v. Williams (4th Dist. 1955), 4 Ill. App.2d 266, 124 N.E.2d 356; Milner v. Nelson (3d Dist. 1950), 340 Ill. App. 21, 91 N.E.2d 111; Dyreson v. Sharp (2d Dist. 1947), 333 Ill. App. 198, 76 N.E.2d 809; Bensman v. Reed (4th Dist. ...


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