Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Jacqueline P. Cox, Judge Presiding.
Released for Publication August 29, 1996. As Corrected September 13, 1996.
The Honorable Justice Egan delivered the opinion of the court: Zwick, P.j., and McNAMARA, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Egan
JUSTICE EGAN delivered the opinion of the court:
This is an appeal by the plaintiff, Dale Pryweller, of the dismissal with prejudice of his amended complaint against the defendants, Gabriella Cohen, Mary Lee, Christopher Zaglifa, Elizabeth Monk and Human Effective Living Programs, Inc. (HELP). The defendants, other then Zaglifa, filed a joint motion to dismiss and have filed a joint brief on appeal; Zaglifa filed a separate motion to dismiss and has filed his own appellate brief.
In count I of the complaint, entitled "Professional Negligence," the plaintiff alleged the following. In 1981, the plaintiff, an attorney licensed to practice in California, was divorced from Eileen Pryweller (Eileen) and began spending six eight weeks with their children pursuant to court-approved visitation. At the time, his daughter was six years old and his son was eight. In 1984, Eileen began refusing to produce the children for visitation, which caused the plaintiff to enforce his visitation rights through litigation.
In January 1986, Eileen falsely accused him of sexually abusing their daughter in South Bend, Indiana, and she made this accusation for the sole purpose of interfering with the plaintiff's visitation rights. Around the same time, she made a similar complaint in Chicago to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
Pursuant to the complaint to DCFS, Eileen and her children came into contact with Cohen, an employee of HELP, which was a DCFS subcontractor. Cohen held herself out as an expert in sexual abuse, but she was not licensed in Illinois to practice medicine, psychology, social work or clinical social work.
The plaintiff alleged that, although the South Bend police determined that no sexual abuse had occurred, Cohen determined that the plaintiff had sexually abused his daughter. Cohen then reported this erroneous determination to DCFS, which, based on Cohen's determination, made a preliminary finding that sexual abuse was "indicated." As an agent of HELP, Cohen then applied to DCFS for payments to treat the daughter, and HELP received payments for this treatment. After learning of the DCFS finding, the plaintiff called Cohen to inform her that Eileen had fabricated the story of sexual abuse to deprive the plaintiff of his visitation rights, but Cohen refused to speak with him.
In April 1986, the Cook County Circuit Court Divorce Division terminated the plaintiff's contact with his children based on Cohen's erroneous determination of abuse. In October 1986, however, doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital examined the plaintiff's children and determined that "there was no sexual abuse." Consequently, in December 1986, the circuit court granted the plaintiff supervised visitation.
Thereafter, the defendants treated the plaintiff and his children at the HELP offices. Zaglifa, Monk and Lee were employees of HELP. Zaglifa and Monk were licensed social workers specializing in the care and treatment of sexually abused children. Lee did not possess a license to practice psychology, social work or medicine but held herself out as a psychologist specializing in the care and treatment of sexually abused children.
The plaintiff conditioned his participation in this treatment upon the defendants' agreement that he had not sexually abused his daughter. Despite the defendants' representations to this effect, they continued to provide DCFS with reports indicating that the plaintiff had sexually abused his daughter and continued to treat the plaintiff's children, at DCFS expense, as if abuse had occurred. The treatments for sexual abuse resulted in the children's substantial and possibly irreversible hatred of the plaintiff.
In May 1987, DCFS reversed its finding that sexual abuse was "indicated" and expunged the accusation from its files. However, the treatments ended in June 1987 when the "DCFS finding, on information and belief, expired." In December 1987, the circuit court Divorce Division entered an agreed order, the substance of which was that "there was no sexual abuse in the first instance."
Based on these alleged facts, the plaintiff claimed that the defendants owed him a duty as psychologists, social workers, clinical social workers or physicians to act with reasonable care in evaluating and treating allegations of sexual abuse. They breached this duty in one or more of the following ways:
"A. Defendants failed to employ competent standards and techniques in determining whether Plaintiff sexually abused his daughter.
B. Defendants improperly treated Plaintiff and his children for sexual abuse even though no such sexual abuse ever transpired.
C. Defendants failed to properly treat Plaintiff and his children and thereby caused the breakdown of the relationship between Plaintiff and his children.
D. Defendants continued to treat Plaintiff and his children for a sex abuse problem even after they learned from Mount Sinai Hospital that no such sexual abuse ever transpired.
E. Defendants failed to disclose their financial interest in their determination that Plaintiff ...