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Pszenny v. General Electric Co.

OPINION FILED APRIL 23, 1985.

PAULA PSZENNY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Brian B. Duff, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE PERLIN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Paula Pszenny, plaintiff, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County which dismissed with prejudice count III of her multicount complaint. The trial court made the dismissal final and appealable pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (87 Ill.2d R. 304(a)). *fn1

Count III alleges: In the fall of 1981 plaintiff, from an unascertained origin, began to suffer nausea, headaches, earaches, dizziness and blackouts. She sought medical treatment from defendant Dr. Hoffman in November and December 1981. Hoffman was unable to determine the cause of her ailments and he requested plaintiff to undergo a "CAT Scan" test at defendant Central Du Page Hospital.

The test was administered to plaintiff on January 11, 1982. Plaintiff alleges that in preparation for the CAT scan test, she was injected with a substance containing iodine. Upon being so injected, she became "violently ill." She believed, at the time, that this condition she experienced at the hospital was merely another manifestation of the unknown ailment which Dr. Hoffman was attempting to treat.

In February 1982, she was informed by a person at Dr. Hoffman's office that she had suffered an "allergic reaction" to the iodine which had been administered in preparation for the CAT scan test.

In March 1983, plaintiff consulted with another doctor concerning an unrelated ailment. During the course of her treatment she learned that if she had been tested for an allergic reaction to iodine before administration of the CAT scan test, she might have avoided the incident suffered at the hospital. She filed her complaint on February 7, 1984, some two years and three weeks after the CAT scan test.

In June 1984, defendant hospital filed a motion to dismiss count III (the only count directed against it), on the ground that the complaint was filed beyond the applicable two-year statutory limitations period. The hospital contended that plaintiff's reaction to the CAT scan test was a "traumatic" injury which, as a matter of law, commenced running of the limitations period on the day that the injury occurred.

Plaintiff responded that the injury she suffered was not properly classified as "traumatic," that she had two years from the time she "knew or should have known both that she was injured and that the injury was wrongfully caused" and that such issue was one to be determined by the trier of fact.

The trial court ruled that the injury suffered by plaintiff at the hospital was a "traumatic" injury and that the two-year statute of limitations therefore began running on the day the Cat scan test was administered. Holding that the complaint against the hospital was not timely filed, he dismissed it with prejudice. This appeal follows.

The applicable limitations statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 13-212) provides, in relevant part:

"No actions for damages or death against any * * * hospital * * * arising out of patient care shall be brought more than 2 years after the date on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known, * * * of the existence of the injury or death for which damages are sought in the action, whichever of such date occurs first * * *."

As the Illinois Supreme Court stated in Witherell v. Weimer (1981), 85 Ill.2d 146, 156, 421 N.E.2d 869, the "discovery rule" postpones the starting of this two-year limitations period until the injured party knows or should have known both of his injury and that it may have been negligently caused.

"The [limitations] statute starts to run when a person knows or reasonably should know of his injury and also knows or reasonably should know that it was wrongfully caused. At that point the burden is upon the injured person to inquire further as to the existence of a cause of action. [Citations.] In many, if not most, cases the time at which an injured party knows or reasonably should have known both of his injury and that it was wrongfully caused will be a disputed question to be resolved by the finder of fact. [Citation.] Where it is apparent from the undisputed facts, however, that only one conclusion can be drawn, the question becomes one for the court. [Citation.]" 85 Ill.2d 146, 156.

In the event it is determined that a plaintiff's injury is caused by a "sudden traumatic" event his cause of action accrues, and the limitations statute begins to run, on the date the injury occurs. (Bates v. Little Company of Mary Hospital (1982), 108 Ill. App.3d 137, 438 N.E.2d 1250.) The classification of an injury as "traumatic" or "nontraumatic" merely aids in the determination of when the plaintiff discovered, or should have discovered, that the injury was caused by the wrongful conduct of a defendant; the more obvious the injury the more easily a ...


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