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02/11/88 Estate of Kathleen Ann v. Condell Memorial Hospital

February 11, 1988






520 N.E.2d 37, 119 Ill. 2d 496, 117 Ill. Dec. 47 1988.IL.192

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Second District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County, the Hon. John L. Hughes, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE WARD delivered the opinion of the court.


The plaintiff, Michael W. Johnson, filed a complaint, which is described hereafter, as administrator of the estate of Kathleen Ann Johnson, who was killed when the car she was driving was struck by a Village of Libertyville police department vehicle operated by defendant Sandra Pierce. Pierce was in pursuit of an auto driven by Janice Holt, who just prior to the police pursuit had been a patient at Condell Memorial Hospital (hereafter Condell). Johnson sued Pierce, the Village of Libertyville, Holt, and Condell. The trial court dismissed the counts against Condell and found no just reason for delaying enforcement or appeal of the dismissal (107 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)). The appellate court, with one Justice Dissenting, reversed in part and affirmed in part (146 Ill. App. 3d 834), and the hospital petitioned for leave to appeal to this court, which we allowed under our Rule 315(a) (107 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)).

The sufficiency of the counts charging Condell are at issue; the other three defendants are not involved in this appeal. As this appeal is before the court on the defendant's motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and all reasonable inferences from them will be regarded as true. (Katz v. Belmont National Bank (1986), 112 Ill. 2d 64, 67; Mein v. Masonite Corp. (1985), 109 Ill. 2d 1, 7.) The plaintiff's complaint alleges that on October 11, 1983, Janice Holt was a patient at Condell. Holt gained access to a dangerous weapon -- a knife -- and threatened hospital personnel, who then attempted to restrain her. Holt got her car keys and fled the hospital in her car. Someone on the hospital staff summoned the Libertyville village police to pursue Holt. The plaintiff alleges that Holt drove her car at a high rate of speed as she was pursued by police officer Sandra Pierce. Pierce allegedly did not sound the siren or turn on the flashing lights of her police vehicle, failed to keep a proper lookout for other vehicles, and drove through an intersection against the traffic signal. Pierce allegedly drove her car in such a negligent manner that she struck the car driven by Kathleen Ann Johnson at an intersection, injuring Johnson and ultimately causing her death.

The plaintiff's 11-count amended complaint included three counts against Condell. Counts V and XI were brought under the Survival Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110 1/2, par. 27-6), seeking damages for the decedent's personal injuries up to the time of her death. Count V seeks compensatory damages, while count XI seeks both compensatory and punitive damages for what plaintiff alleges was Condell's wilful and wanton misconduct. Count VI was brought under the Wrongful Death Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 70, par. 1 et seq.), seeking compensatory damages and alleging that decedent's death was proximately caused by Condell's negligence.

The plaintiff alleges in counts V and VI that Condell either knew or should have known that Holt suffered from mental disorders, drug addiction, and had a propensity toward violence and flight from authorities. The complaint also alleges that Holt was a "person subject to involuntary admission at Condell" or another appropriate facility under section 1-119 of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 91 1/2, par. 1-119) (hereafter the Code). The plaintiff alleges that Condell's employees attempted to restrain Holt, thereby assuming from their attempt the duty to exercise ordinary care. The plaintiff alleges that Condell was negligent in that it failed to provide adequate security to control Holt, allowed Holt "access to a dangerous weapon which should have been denied her in her mental and physical condition," allowed Holt access to her car keys, provided inadequate parking lot security to prevent Holt access to her car, and "failed to have Holt involuntarily admitted to an appropriate mental or physical health care facility." Similar factual allegations are set out in count XI, seeking punitive and compensatory damages under the Survival Act. These acts, the plaintiff contends, constitute either negligence, as he alleges in counts V and VI, or wilful and wanton misconduct, as he alleges in count XI, and the acts proximately caused the decedent's injuries and death.

Condell moved to dismiss the three counts on the grounds that the hospital owed no duty to Johnson, that Condell's actions were not the proximate cause of Johnson's death, and that punitive damages were not available in either a survivorship or wrongful death action. The trial court dismissed the three counts against Condell. On the plaintiff's appeal, the appellate court affirmed the dismissal of count XI as to the punitive damages, but reversed and remanded as to counts V and VI and the claim for compensatory damages in count XI. As stated, Condell was given leave to appeal to this court. The dismissal of the punitive damages portion of count XI is not raised in this appeal; only the allegations concerning compensatory damages are before us.

The defendant makes three principal arguments for reversal of the appellate court. Firstly, Condell contends the appellate court incorrectly imposed a duty upon a hospital to protect one who is not a patient and the public from the conduct of one who was neither voluntarily nor involuntarily admitted to the hospital's custody. The defendant says it cannot owe a duty to control a patient who has not been voluntarily or involuntarily admitted to its custody. The defendant says that whether a person is subject to involuntary admission, as the complaint alleges, to a mental health facility is a question for legal determination. The defendant relies on Addington v. Texas (1979), 441 U.S. 418, 425, 60 L. Ed. 2d 323, 330-31, 99 S. Ct. 1804, 1809, in arguing that an individual's loss of liberty through involuntary commitment requires due process protection. Thus, the defendant argues, because Holt had not been involuntarily committed, it had no duty to keep her at its facility, as the resulting loss of liberty without a legal determination for her involuntary commitment would have violated her due process rights.

The plaintiff responds, firstly, that it is improper for Condell to challenge the applicability of the Code because it did not raise the point in the trial court, and the issue appeared for the first time in Condell's petition for rehearing in the appellate court. As the defendant correctly observes, however, while an appellant who fails to raise an issue in the appellate court waives the issue before this court, an appellee in the appellate court (Condell here) may raise a ground in this court which was not presented to the appellate court in order to sustain the judgment of the trial court, as long as there is a factual basis for it. (Hammond v. North American Asbestos Corp. (1983), 97 Ill. 2d 195, 205-06; Shaw v. Lorenz (1969), 42 Ill. 2d 246, 248; see also People v. Franklin (1987), 115 Ill. 2d 328, 336.) Too, a reviewing court may sustain the decision of the trial court on any grounds called for by the record, regardless of whether the trial court made its decision on the proper ground. Bell v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 135, 148; Material Service Corp. v. Department of Revenue (1983), 98 Ill. 2d 382.

The plaintiff also submits that the appellate court properly held Condell owed a duty to Holt that extended to the benefit of the plaintiff's decedent. It is the plaintiff's contention that Condell owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to control a known dangerous person, Holt, to prevent harm to other persons. This duty, the plaintiff says, is recognized in section 319 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965), "Duty of Those in Charge of Person Having Dangerous Propensities." The plaintiff concedes that his decedent was a stranger to Condell and Holt, but says that, because of Condell's patient relationship with Holt, it owed a duty to control her, the benefit of which duty extended in favor of the ...

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