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03/31/89 Edwin Turner, v. Rush Medical College Et Al

March 31, 1989

EDWIN TURNER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

RUSH MEDICAL COLLEGE ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIFTH DIVISION

537 N.E.2d 890, 182 Ill. App. 3d 448, 130 Ill. Dec. 561 1989.IL.460

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

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. MURRAY, P.J., concurs. JUSTICE PINCHAM, Dissenting.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LORENZ

Plaintiff appealed from the dismissal of his cause of action under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-615) for failure to state a cause of action. We address the issue of whether the allegations of plaintiff's amended complaint are legally sufficient to establish that defendants owed plaintiff a duty of care. For the following reasons, we affirm.

Plaintiff's amended complaint for negligence against defendants alleged the following facts. Plaintiff, a 23-year-old second-year medical student at Rush Medical College (Rush), was enrolled in a clinical pathology class taught by Meryl H. Haber. Haber was a medical doctor employed as a professor by Rush, a certified medical school. On May 2, 1985, Haber "directed" plaintiff to run one mile within eight minutes as a "laboratory experiment" for the class. Prior to and after the run, plaintiff was to take a urine sample and then record any changes in the electrolyte levels of the samples. The experiment was not a formal requirement to obtain a medical degree. Prior to the experiment, plaintiff had not been involved in regular physical exercise since he was in high school, had never run a timed-mile run, and was not in physical condition to participate in a timed-mile run.

Plaintiff alleged defendants had a duty to exercise reasonable care for his safety which was breached when defendants required him to run the mile but did not learn what forms of physical exercise he was involved in, did not learn whether he ever participated in a timed-mile run, did not conduct a physical examination of him to check respiration and blood pressure, did not have medical personnel present during and after the run, did not have oxygen and water available during and after the run, and did not properly supervise him during the run.

Plaintiff alleged as a direct and proximate result of defendants' breach of duty he suffered a "total collapse in his body mechanisms" which involved numerous medical problems, including "extreme exertional rhabdomyolysis," requiring hospitalization for 2 1/2 months at a cost of over $250,000.

Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to section 2 -- 615 and argued, among other issues, that plaintiff did not plead sufficient facts to establish defendants owed a legal duty to take the precautions plaintiff alleged were required.

The trial court dismissed plaintiff's cause of action with prejudice finding that the allegations did not give rise to a duty on defendants' part. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal.

Opinion

In reviewing the dismissal of an action under section 2 -- 615, the court must interpret the allegations of the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, and if it appears that no set of facts from the pleadings could be proven which would entitle plaintiff to relief, the dismissal must be affirmed. (Ross v. City of Chicago (1988), 168 Ill. App. 3d 83, 522 N.E.2d 215.) A legally sufficient complaint for negligence must plead facts that establish the existence of a duty owed by defendant to plaintiff, breach of the duty, and an injury proximately caused by the breach. (Kirk v. Michael Reese Hospital & Medical Center (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 507, 513 N.E.2d 387.) Whether defendant and plaintiff stood in such a relationship to one another that the law imposed a duty of reasonable conduct on defendant toward plaintiff is a question of law for the court to determine. Estate of Johnson v. Condell Memorial Hospital (1988), 119 Ill. 2d 496, 520 N.E.2d 37.

In analyzing whether defendants owed plaintiff a duty in this case, we are guided by the following pronouncement by the Illinois Supreme Court:

"[In] determining whether there was a legal duty, the occurrence involved must not have been simply foreseeable, . . . it must have been reasonably foreseeable. The creation of a legal duty requires more than a mere possibility of occurrence. . . . 'No man can be expected to guard against harm from events which are not reasonably to be anticipated at all, or are so unlikely to occur that the risk, although recognizable, would commonly be disregarded.'" (Cunis v. Brennan (1974), 56 Ill. 2d 372, 375-76, 308 N.E.2d 617, 619, quoting W. Prosser, Torts § 31, at 146 (4th ed. 1971).)

Additionally, reasonable foreseeability must be Judged as what the reasonably prudent person would have foreseen as likely to happen at the time of defendants' conduct, not what may appear with hindsight. Cunis, 56 Ill. 2d at 376, 308 N.E.2d at 619.

In the present case, we must consider what would have been apparent to a reasonably prudent person at the time defendants required plaintiff to run a mile. In his complaint, plaintiff did not allege that defendants knew or should have known he was not in physical condition to run, he was not involved in regular physical exercise, or he would suffer an injury. Also, plaintiff did not allege that defendants knew or should have known of a medical condition which would make him more likely to suffer an injury from physical exertion. From the allegations of plaintiff's complaint, there is nothing to indicate that defendants saw plaintiff as anything other than a healthy 23-year-old man. Additionally, there are no allegations that the surrounding conditions, such as heat or humidity of the day, would suggest a need for caution. We believe that at the time of defendants' conduct, a reasonably prudent person would not have foreseen plaintiff's injury.

Although reasonable foreseeability of harm is the primary concern in determining whether a duty exists, the court must also consider the likelihood of injury, the magnitude of the burden to guard against the injury, and the consequence of placing the burden on defendant. (Kirk v. Michael Reese Hospital & Medical Center (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 507, 513 N.E.2d 387.) The determination of whether a duty exists reflects public policy and social requirements. Zimmermann v. Netemeyer (1984), 122 Ill. App. 3d 1042, 462 N.E.2d 502.

The trial court relied, in part, on public policy considerations when it determined that the allegations of plaintiff's complaint did not give rise to a duty on defendants' part. Plaintiff urges that this court find the existence of a duty and not be concerned with the application of this case to future cases. Plaintiff ignores that the determination of whether a legal duty exists is dependent, in part, on public policy, and we are unable to confine our analysis in the manner plaintiff suggests. If we were to hold that a duty exists under the facts alleged in plaintiff's complaint, we can foresee countless situations where our holding could potentially be applicable. Almost any physical activity that a school or teacher required could trigger a duty to provide medical precautions. The imposition of a duty in such cases would impose an expensive financial burden on schools which we believe would violate public policy.

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the trial court in dismissing plaintiff's cause of action for negligence is affirmed.

Judgment ...


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