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Heying v. Simonaitis

OPINION FILED JUNE 29, 1984.

CAROLE HEYING, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

DR. JOHN J. SIMONAITIS ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Myron T. Gomberg, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE BUCKLEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The present consolidated appeals arise out of an action brought by plaintiff, Carole Heying, a nurse, against physicians John J. Simonaitis and Luis Cespedes and two other nurses, Nancy Borngraber and Orvilla Pupp, all of whom worked with plaintiff. Her complaint alleged intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court dismissed plaintiff's third amended complaint against all four defendants for failure to state a cause of action. Plaintiff thereafter filed a motion seeking to vacate the order of dismissal against the two defendant physicians and for leave to file a fourth amended complaint as to them only. The trial court denied plaintiff's motion. Plaintiff appeals the denial of her motion pertaining to the physicians and the earlier order dismissing her third amended complaint as to the two nurses. We affirm in both instances.

The record reflects that in October 1978 plaintiff was employed as a nurse in the renal dialysis unit at Memorial Hospital in Du Page County in suburban Elmhurst. Defendant Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes were staff physicians in the unit. Defendants Pupp and Borngraber were the head nurse and supervising nurse, respectively, in the unit. Plaintiff was employed by the hospital for nine years and assigned to the renal dialysis unit for approximately three years.

During the fall of 1978, there was growing discord between plaintiff and the rest of the renal dialysis unit staff. Plaintiff alleged that the problem stemmed from her criticism of certain training procedures being followed in the unit. Documents attached to the pleadings, however, disclosed there were various complaints both by patients and other staff members concerning plaintiff's "negative" attitude, her favoritism to certain patients and her antagonism toward other staff members.

In accordance with the hospital's established grievance procedures, two meetings were held between plaintiff and Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes. At the meetings, the problems and dissension in the unit were discussed, allegedly in a somewhat heated manner. Following these meetings, an anecdotal note was signed by nurses Pupp and Borngraber, itemizing some of the events and problems that led to the meetings.

The meetings between plaintiff and Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes failed to produce a satisfactory resolution of the problem. Consequently, the matter was taken through the next step of the hospital grievance procedure — review by an impartial peer review committee composed of other nurses outside the renal dialysis unit. Both Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes testified before the nurse's review committee. On December 4, 1978, the review committee recommended that the anecdotal note be removed from plaintiff's personnel file and that plaintiff be given an apology for the manner in which the meetings with Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes were handled. In view of the personality conflicts involved, however, the review committee concluded that "in the best interest of all parties, the committee recommends that Mrs. Heying be reassigned to a nursing area that is mutually acceptable to her and the nursing office."

Following the review committee's recommendation, plaintiff made no attempt to carry the matter through any further review processes provided by hospital grievance procedures. She subsequently was reassigned to another nursing position in the hospital. At some point after her transfer, she voluntarily terminated her employment at the hospital. She currently is employed in an obstetrical/gynecological unit at another hospital.

After terminating her employment with the hospital, plaintiff brought suit against Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes and nurses Pupp and Borngraber. Her third amended complaint contained three counts. Count I alleged intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Count II charged defamation and count III alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress. On July 8, 1982, the trial court entered an order dismissing nurses Pupp and Borngraber from the case on the ground that plaintiff's third amended complaint failed to state a cause of action as against them. Plaintiff thereafter filed an appeal from the court's order under Docket No. 82-1954.

On December 16, 1982, the third amended complaint similarly was dismissed as to Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes. Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate this dismissal order and for leave to file a fourth amended complaint against the physicians. The fourth amended complaint was predicated on the same three theories as the third amended complaint. The trial court considered plaintiff's fourth amended complaint on the merits but ultimately concluded that it, too, failed to state a cause of action and denied plaintiff's motion. Plaintiff appealed the court's determination under Docket No. 83-1265.

In this consolidated appeal, we are to determine whether the trial court acted correctly in dismissing plaintiff's third amended complaint as to all four defendants and in denying her leave to file a fourth amended complaint against Drs. Simonaitis and Cespedes.

I

• 1 Plaintiff initially urges that count I of her third and fourth amended complaints states a cause of action for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. Count I alleges, in pertinent part, as follows: that "plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of continuing a valid business relationship" with Memorial Hospital of Du Page County; that defendants intentionally and maliciously conspired among themselves to interfere with plaintiff's employment at Memorial Hospital by making defamatory statements; and that as a proximate result of the defendants' actions, the plaintiff was transferred out of the renal dialysis unit and into another unit at Memorial Hospital.

The law is well settled that the following essential elements must be alleged to state a cause of action for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage: (1) the plaintiff's reasonable expectancy of entering into a valid business relationship; (2) the defendant's knowledge of the expectancy; (3) an intentional interference by the defendant which prevents the expectancy from ripening into a valid business relationship; and (4) damage to the plaintiff from such interference. (Tom Olesker's Exciting World of Fashion, Inc. v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. (1973), 16 Ill. App.3d 709, 713-14, 306 N.E.2d 549, rev'd in part on other grounds (1975), 61 Ill.2d 129, 334 N.E.2d 160.) It is further established that the interference complained of must induce or cause a breach or termination of the relationship or expectancy. City of Rock Falls v. Chicago Title & Trust Co. (1973), 13 Ill. App.3d 359, 363, 300 N.E.2d 331.

Here, plaintiff has not advanced the requisite factual allegations in count I to support a cause of action based on interference with prospective economic advantage. Count I fails to allege that plaintiff's relationship with Memorial Hospital was breached or terminated as a result of defendants' conduct. Rather, plaintiff merely alleges that she was transferred from one unit of the hospital to another. This court has made it clear that transfer is not the same as termination and cannot be said to ...


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