Plaintiff argues that three separate acts or omissions by
defendant satisfy the element of equitable estoppel. First, he
argues that his parents reasonably relied on the statements of
Nurse Brennan that doctors were aware of their son's
deteriorating neurological condition and on the way. Second,
plaintiff argues Dr. James had an affirmative duty to disclose to
plaintiff that there was an inordinate delay from his complaints
of paralysis to the time Dr. Lander was notified. Finally,
plaintiff argues he reasonably relied on Dr. Steinberg's
representations that he received adequate care at Jewish
As stated above, to successfully invoke equitable estoppel,
plaintiff must establish that he reasonably relied on defendant's
conduct or representations in forebearing suit. Bomba v. W.L.
Belvidere, Inc., supra; Witherell v. Weimer, 85 Ill.2d 146, 52
Ill.Dec. 6, 13, 421 N.E.2d 869, 876 (1981). The lynchpin of the
analysis often is whether a plaintiff's reliance was in fact
reasonable. "A party claiming estoppel cannot shut his eyes to
obvious facts, or neglect to seek information that is easily
accessible, but then charge his ignorance to others."
Gary-Wheaton Bank v. Burt, 104 Ill.App.3d 767, 60 Ill.Dec. 518,
527, 433 N.E.2d 315, 324 (1982) citing Vail v. Northwestern
Mutual Life Insurance Co., 192 Ill. 567, 61 N.E. 651 (1901).
Defendant argues vigorously that equitable estoppel is not
implicated unless plaintiff proves defendant intended to deceive
plaintiff through its conduct or representations. If this were a
correct statement of the law in Illinois, the task of the Court
in resolving this issue would be simple indeed, because there was
no evidence that agents of Jewish Hospital intended to cause
plaintiff to neglect his claim. In Witherell, supra, however the
court found that it is not necessary that defendant intended by
its conduct or representations to induce delay. The court adopted
the statement of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Nesbitt v.
Erie Coach Co., 416 Pa. 89, 204 A.2d 473, 477 (1964) that it is
"not the intention of the party estopped but the natural effect
upon the other party which gives vitality to an estoppel."
Witherell v. Weimer, supra, at 875-76.
Furthermore, the Court's analysis of the issue of estoppel
varies depending on the nature of the relationship between the
parties. For instance, when plaintiff and defendant are in a
fiduciary relationship, mere silence can trigger estoppel.
It is the prevailing rule that as between persons
sustaining a fiduciary or trust or other confidential
relationship toward each other, the person, occupying
the relation of fiduciary or of confidence is under a
duty to reveal the facts to the plaintiff (the other
party), and that his silence when he ought to speak,
or his failure to disclose what he ought to disclose,
is as much a fraud at law as an actual affirmative
false representation or act,. . . ."
Chicago Park Dist. v. Kenroy, Inc.,