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Holton v. Resurrection Hospital

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 11, 1980.

JAMES T. HOLTON, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF LLOYD KUMBERA, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

RESURRECTION HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DAVID A. CANEL, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE LINN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, James T. Holton, the administrator of the estate of Lloyd Kumbera, brings this appeal from an order entered in the circuit court of Cook County dismissing his complaint and from an order denying him leave to conduct discovery and file an amended complaint. Plaintiff's complaint was dismissed as failing to state a cause of action because it alleged conclusions rather than specific facts. The only issue we need determine on appeal is whether the complaint states a cause of action. We hold that it does and reverse and remand.

Plaintiff's complaint for wrongful death, based on negligence, alleged the following pertinent facts. On June 29, 1974, plaintiff's intestate, Lloyd Kumbera, went to the emergency room of defendant, Resurrection Hospital, where he was examined, treated, and, after three hours, released. The next day Kumbera suffered a heart attack and died. Plaintiff alleged that Kumbera's death resulted from the negligent acts of defendant in that the defendant:

"a. Allowed and permitted an unqualified employee and/or medical doctor to treat and examine plaintiff's intestate in the emergency room;

b. Allowed and permitted its unqualified employee and/or medical doctor in the emergency room to fail to diagnose a cardiac condition;

c. Allowed and permitted its unqualified employee and/or medical doctor in the emergency room to make an improper diagnosis;

d. Allowed and permitted an unqualified physician to interpret the electrocardiogram;

e. Failed through its medical and surgical staff to review the treatment rendered to plaintiff's intestate;

f. Failed to comply with the Standards for Hospital Accreditation issued by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals;

g. Failed to comply with the Rules and Regulations promulgated by the Illinois Department of Health under the Hospital Licensing Act.

Plaintiff sought damages on behalf of decedent's two children. Plaintiff's present action was not filed until four years after the alleged events took place. A previous and similar action had been filed and dismissed for want of prosecution.

Plaintiff's present complaint was dismissed because the above allegations of negligence were mere conclusions and plaintiff had failed to plead sufficient specific facts to state a cause of action. Among the "mere conclusions" alleged to exist in the complaint are the following. The complaint states that an unqualified employee or doctor treated the decedent but fails to specify who the employee or doctor was and how such person was unqualified. The complaint alleges that an unqualified employee or doctor was allowed to make an improper diagnosis but fails to specify the diagnosis made and how it was improper. The complaint states that the defendant hospital failed through its medical staff to review the treatment rendered the decedent but fails to specify which treatment was not reviewed. The complaint contends the hospital violated certain standards and rules governing the hospital but fails to specify which standards or rules were violated. Finally, the complaint merely concludes that an employee or staff member of the hospital treated decedent but fails to set out facts showing that a principal and agency relationship existed between the hospital and the alleged employee or staff member.

OPINION

It is often said that a complaint to be sufficient in law must set out specific facts showing a cause of action exists, and a complaint is insufficient if it states mere conclusions, whether of fact or of law. (E.g., McCauley v. Chicago Board of Education (1978), 66 Ill. App.3d 676, 384 N.E.2d 100; Plocher v. City of Highland (1978), 59 Ill. App.3d 697, 375 N.E.2d 1016.) However, it is also said that what may be a mere conclusion in one context can be a specific fact in another. See Van Dekerkhov v. ...


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