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06/07/88 Jackie Edwards, v. Safer Foundation

June 7, 1988

JACKIE EDWARDS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

SAFER FOUNDATION, INC., D/B/A CROSSROADS COMMUNITY CORRECTION CENTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION

525 N.E.2d 987, 171 Ill. App. 3d 793, 121 Ill. Dec. 680 1988.IL.882

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Odas J. Nicholson, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE HARTMAN delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO and EGAN, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HARTMAN

Plaintiff Jackie Edwards appeals from an order dismissing his refiled complaint as barred by section 13-202 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 13-202). This appeal raises the question of whether a claim dismissed for lack of jurisdiction in the Illinois Court of Claims, and otherwise barred by the applicable statute of limitations, may be refiled in the circuit court pursuant to section 13-217 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 13-217).

On November 12, 1985, Edwards filed a verified complaint in the Court of Claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections (Department) and defendant Safer Foundation, Inc. (Safer), doing business as Crossroads Community Correction Center (Crossroads), seeking damages for injuries he allegedly sustained at Crossroads on or about November 12, 1983. This initial filing evidently satisfied the limitations provisions of the Court of Claims Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 439.22) (the Act)). Crossroads is a "halfway house" owned and operated by Safer for individuals sentenced to custody of the Department.

Pursuant to motions filed by Safer and the Department, the claims court ordered the complaint dismissed as to the Department on March 28, 1986, and as to Safer on June 16, 1986, because: Safer is a private, not-for-profit corporation and therefore not amenable to suit in the Court of Claims; the Department "is in no way responsible for the incident complained of . . . and should not have been named as a party"; and Edwards failed to exhaust his remedies against Safer as required by the Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 37, par. 439.24-5.

Citing section 13 -- 217, Edwards refiled his complaint (refiled complaint) in the circuit court of Cook County on February 6, 1987, naming only Safer as defendant and asserting that on the date of the accident, Edwards, who was incarcerated and resided at Crossroads, entered a washroom at the facility; Safer negligently permitted accumulation of and failed to remove newspapers or "other foreign substances" on the washroom floor, causing Edwards to slip, fall and strike "his mouth, jaw and head"; and as a result, he sustained "severe and permanent injuries."

Safer moved to dismiss the refiled complaint on April 30, 1987, maintaining that: (1) Edwards improperly relied on section 13-217 to extend the period in which to refile his complaint, because the statute does not apply to actions dismissed by the Court of Claims; (2) the original complaint was a "nullity" and did not toll the running of the two-year statute of limitations, section 13-202 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 13-202); and (3) because the refiled complaint was filed "nearly 3 1/2 years" after the incident complained of, the claim is barred by operation of section 13-202.

In his response and amended response, filed July 17 and October 9, 1987, respectively, Edwards conceded that section 13 -- 217 does not by name permit the refiling of complaints dismissed from the Court of Claims, but insisted that the statute protects actions dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and thus never Judged on the merits. Furthermore, Edwards argued that "[the] spirit of [the] statute, the legislative intent behind it and general public policy dictate" Edwards' right to proceed with discovery and have the merits of his claim determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Following a hearing on October 15, 1987, the circuit court found no "legal justification" for Edwards' assertion that section 13 -- 217 tolled the statute of limitations and dismissed the refiled complaint. He appeals.

Edwards insists the court erred in dismissing his refiled complaint as barred by the statute of limitations and urges a broad construction of section 13 -- 217 to include dismissal from the Court of Claims as one of the grounds triggering the statute's tolling effect. His procedurally defective decision to file in that court, he argues, was made in good faith and should not now be permitted to defeat an otherwise meritorious claim.

Safer maintains that the statute limits the refiling of complaints dismissed for lack of jurisdiction to those dismissed by a Federal district court (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 13-217) and that there is no specific ...


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