Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. Jerry
L. Patton, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE LONDRIGAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
In these two consolidated cases, the Coroner of Macon County filed claims in the respective estates seeking a fee for the preliminary investigation conducted by the coroner in each case. The trial judge denied both claims, finding that the investigations were not required under section 10 of "An Act to revise the law in relation to coroners" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 31, par. 10). We affirm.
The issue presented for review is whether the coroner is entitled to his fees for conducting a preliminary investigation in each case.
Anice Cahill became ill at church on September 27, 1980, and was taken to St. Mary's Hospital and placed in the intensive care unit until her death October 1, 1980. She was under the care of Dr. Charles O. Stanley while in the hospital.
The death certificate was signed by Dr. Charles O. Stanley, who attended Mrs. Cahill from March 20, 1961, until her death, and contained a notation that the coroner had been notified; the coroner's records showed that a preliminary investigation was conducted.
Mrs. Cahill's death certificate was admitted into evidence. It stated that she was 85 years old and listed the immediate cause of her death as brain stem stroke with respiratory failure. The stated approximate interval between the onset of that condition and death was four days. Addison's disease was listed as another significant condition contributing to her death. No autopsy was performed.
Chris Vallas, Coroner of Macon County, stated that the coroner's investigation revealed that Mrs. Cahill's death was a natural death.
On February 1, 1980, Thelma Schaub was stricken while eating supper and taken to Decatur Memorial Hospital. She was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital by Dr. Paul R. Stanley and remained there until her death on February 4, 1980, under the care of Dr. Paul R. Stanley and Dr. Hubbard.
Vallas testified that according to the coroner's records the coroner was called by the hospital and conducted a preliminary investigation and that the standard procedure is for the doctor and coroner to confer about which one of them will sign the death certificate.
The death certificate was signed by Dr. Paul R. Stanley, and there was no notation that the coroner was called by the doctor.
Mrs. Schaub's death certificate was admitted into evidence. It noted that she was 76 years old and listed the immediate cause of her death as brain stem infarction; the stated approximate interval between the onset of that condition and death was three days. There was no notation on the certificate that the coroner was notified of Mrs. Schaub's death. No autopsy was performed.
Vallas stated that his predecessor as coroner, Dr. John K. Morrison, and Mrs. Schaub's attending physician concluded that her death was a natural death. The coroner's report indicated that Dr. Paul R. Stanley would sign the death certificate. The police were not notified of Mrs. Schaub's death, no blood specimens were taken, and no inquest was performed.
The authority of a coroner to make a preliminary investigation into the circumstances of a death is governed by section 10 of "An Act to revise the law in relation to coroners" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 31, par. 10), which says in pertinent part:
"Every coroner, whenever, as soon as he knows or is informed that the dead body of any person is found, or lying within his county, ...