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Kurle v. Evangelical Hospital Ass'n

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 29, 1980.

LINDA KURLE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

EVANGELICAL HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION, D/B/A GOOD SAMARITAN HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. (ARGONAUT INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. WILLIAM E. BLACK, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE VAN DEUSEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant hospital takes this interlocutory appeal from an order of the trial court granting the motion of the plaintiff for a preliminary injunction and ordering that plaintiff's employment be reinstated by the defendant hospital including back pay and benefits which she enjoyed prior to her suspension on May 28, 1980.

Plaintiff was discharged from her employment as a nurse by the defendant hospital on June 13, 1980. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a four-count complaint and a petition for preliminary injunction. In count I, she sought both a preliminary and permanent injunction restraining and enjoining the defendant and its agents, servants and employees from preventing her from entering defendant's premises known as the Good Samaritan Hospital or from interfering with her work and practice there as a nurse, her pay, past and future, and all other employee benefits she enjoyed. Counts II, III and IV sought money damages, both compensatory and punitive, for injuries to her present and future ability to support herself and practice her profession as a nurse and for damages to her reputation as a competent nurse.

Defendant hospital filed its motion to dismiss count I on the grounds that the count failed to state a cause of action for legal or equitable relief; that the court had no power to order a private employer to reinstate plaintiff as a nurse; and that the plaintiff had not pleaded the prerequisites for preliminary mandatory injunctive relief.

• 1-3 The motion to dismiss count I of the complaint and the petition for a preliminary injunction were heard and in effect denied by the trial court. The court then ascertained that defendant desired to stand on its motion to dismiss and did not intend to file an answer to the allegations of count I or to the petition. The judge then stated that he was ordering defendant hospital to reinstate the plaintiff with back pay, but then proceeded to hold an evidentiary hearing. Such an evidentiary hearing under these circumstances was improper, since it is the law in this State, that, on a motion for a temporary injunction, where the defendant has not answered the complaint and where issues have not been joined, the court should not receive or consider evidence or affidavits. (H.K.H. Development Corp. v. Metropolitan Sanitary District (1964), 47 Ill. App.2d 46, 50, and cases cited therein.) However, since defendant participated in the hearing, defendant has waived any objection it might have had to the hearing, and the court could properly consider the evidence adduced in deciding whether to grant the preliminary injunction. See Filter Dynamics International, Inc. v. Astron Battery, Inc. (1974), 19 Ill. App.3d 299, 317.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the court entered its order which contained the single finding that plaintiff was not afforded a hearing as set forth in section 15.1 of the Illinois Nursing Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 111, par. 3421) (hereinafter the Act) as well as in defendant hospital's employees' handbook. The court ordered that defendant hospital reinstate plaintiff's employment, including the back pay and benefits provided to her prior to her suspension.

Count I of the complaint purports to allege a cause of action for injunctive relief arising basically from: (1) the defendant's violation of its own rules regarding suspension and termination of its employees as set forth in its employees' handbook and (2) failure to comply with the requirements of section 15.1 of the Illinois Nursing Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 111, par. 3421) in taking disciplinary action against plaintiff. We first consider the application of section 15.1 of the Illinois Nursing Act.

Section 15.1 provides as follows:

"No action of a disciplinary nature which is predicated on charges alleging unethical or unprofessional conduct of a person who is a registered professional nurse or a licensed practical nurse and which can be reasonably expected to affect adversely that person's maintenance of his present, or his securing of future, employment as such a nurse may be taken by the Department, by any association or by any person unless the person against whom such charges are made is afforded the right to be represented by legal counsel of his choosing and to present any witness, whether an attorney or otherwise to testify on matters relevant to such charges." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 111, par. 3421.)

Plaintiff contends that the legislature, in enacting this section, intended that it apply to any person or association as well as the Department of Registration and Education. She argues that the statute prevents any association or person from taking any disciplinary action, predicated on charges alleging unethical or unprofessional conduct of a registered professional or licensed practical nurse, that could reasonably be expected to adversely affect the nurse's securing of employment, unless the nurse is afforded the right to be represented by legal counsel of his choosing and to present any witness, whether an attorney or otherwise, to testify in matters relevant to such charges. Under the plaintiff's interpretation of this section, its provisions are applicable to actions by employers, both public and private, in suspending, discharging or otherwise disciplining an employee where the charge is based on unethical or unprofessional conduct. The defendant contends, to the contrary, that section 15.1, like every other section of the Illinois Nursing Act, was intended to apply only to actions by the Illinois Department of Registration and Education (hereinafter Department) concerning the licensure of nurses.

• 4 We have carefully considered section 15.1 of the Illinois Nursing Act and the other provisions of that Act. As with any statute, it is our responsibility to ascertain legislative intent. If such intent is manifest from the clear and unambiguous language of the statute, there is obviously no need for construction; however, if the intent is in any way clouded or uncertain, the established rules of construction applicable to statutes may be followed to ascertain the true meaning of the statute. (See Stewart v. Amoco Oil Co. (1979), 72 Ill. App.3d 330, 333.) It is also a cardinal rule of statutory construction that the intent and meaning of a statute are to be determined from the entire statute. (Neville v. Friedman (1977), 67 Ill.2d 488, 492, cert. denied (1978), 437 U.S. 903, 57 L.Ed.2d 1132, 98 S.Ct. 3088; Huckaba v. Cox (1958), 14 Ill.2d 126, 131.) In arriving at the purpose and meaning of the statute at issue, we look at the entire act, considering all its separate parts together as a whole. See Stroh v. Blackhawk Holding Corp. (1971), 48 Ill.2d 471, 479; Scribner v. Sachs (1960), 18 Ill.2d 400, 406; Illinois Bell Telephone Co. v. Ames (1936), 364 Ill. 362, 366; Tri-County Landfill Co. v. Pollution Control Board (1976), 41 Ill. App.3d 249, 253.

Plaintiff contends that section 15.1 is unambiguous and that the legislature clearly intended, by use of the phrase, "may be taken by the department or by any association or by any person," that the requirements of the section apply to disciplinary actions taken by any association or any person against nurses charged with unethical or unprofessional conduct as well as to disciplinary actions taken by the Department. "Person," plaintiff contends, obviously includes employers in the private sector such as the defendant hospital.

An initial reading of the Act, confined solely to a consideration of the provision at issue, gives credence to plaintiff's contentions; but, a reading of section 15.1, in the context of the entire Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 111, par. 3401 et seq.) and the companion licensing acts, makes evident that it was the intent of the Illinois legislature, in enacting the Illinois Nursing Act, to create a licensing scheme for nurses, including disciplinary procedures to be utilized by the Department when charges of unethical conduct have been brought against licensed nurses; there was no intent that the Act embrace disciplinary procedures to be followed by employers with reference to nurse employees. It is our duty to interpret a statute as to promote its essential purposes. See Craig v. Peterson (1968), 39 Ill.2d 191, 201. Accord, Morton Grove Park District v. American National Bank & Trust Co. (1980), 78 Ill.2d 353, 363, quoting Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. v. Illinois State Toll Highway Commission (1969), 42 Ill.2d 385, 389-90.

A review of the legislative history of the Act strengthens our interpretation. The Illinois Nursing Act was enacted by the legislature in 1951, with subsequent revisions in 1965. Prior to the amendments of 1965, section 15 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, ch. 91, par. 35.46 (amended 1965) (current version at Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 111, par. 3420)), relating to the discipline of licensed nurses by the Department, set forth the grounds upon which the Department could refuse to issue or renew, or could suspend or revoke, any certificate of registration of a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse. Under that section, licensed nurses could be disciplined in only one of two ways: by suspension or by revocation of his or her certificate. In either case, however, pursuant to section 16 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, ch. 91, par. 35.47 (currently at ...


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