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12/12/96 JESSIE WEIMANN v. MEADOW MANOR

December 12, 1996

JESSIE WEIMANN, AS NEXT FRIEND AND GUARDIAN FOR THE PERSON AND ESTATE OF ROSALIE WEIMANN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MEADOW MANOR, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Christian County. No. 95-L-27. Honorable Robert Davison, Judge, presiding.

The Honorable Justice Goldenhersh delivered the opinion of the court. Welch and Chapman, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Goldenhersh

JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Jessie O. Weimann, guardian of the person and estate of Rosalie Weimann, appeals from an order entered by the circuit court of Christian County striking plaintiff's prayer for treble damages for injuries Rosalie Weimann allegedly sustained while a resident at Meadow Manor, the facility of defendant, Meadow Manor, Inc. Plaintiff seeks treble damages under section 3-602 of the Nursing Home Care Act (the Act) (210 ILCS 45/3-602 (West 1994)) as it existed on March 6, 1995, when plaintiff filed his complaint, prior to the amendment of section 3-602 by Public Act 89-197, effective July 21, 1995 (see 210 ILCS 45/3-602 (West Supp. 1995)). The circuit court entered an order certifying the question of treble damages for interlocutory appeal to this court. On appeal, the sole issue presented for our consideration is whether the amendment of section 3-602 by Public Act 89-197 shall be applied retroactively to actions occurring prior to July 21, 1995. We hold that the circuit court erred in applying the amended section 3-602 of Public Act 89-197 retroactively.

I

Count I of plaintiff's two-count complaint is premised upon liability under the Act and seeks treble damages and attorney fees. The complaint alleges that Rosalie Weimann, plaintiff's wife, was raped repeatedly by a licensed practical nurse employed by defendant and further alleges that defendant was warned repeatedly of the nurse's conduct and failed to prevent further sexual acts by the nurse against Rosalie Weimann. Count II alleges that plaintiff's injuries were caused by defendant's negligence and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

At the time the alleged rapes occurred, from March 1993 through January 1995, and when plaintiff filed his complaint on March 6, 1995, section 3-602 of the Act provided:

"§ 3-602. The licensee shall pay 3 times the actual damages, or $500, whichever is greater, and costs and attorney's fees to a facility resident whose rights, as specified in Part 1 of Article II of this Act, are violated." 210 ILCS 45/3-602 (West 1994).

The General Assembly passed Public Act 89-197 while plaintiff's complaint was pending. Public Act 89-197, referred to as the "Health Care Worker Background Check Act," amended section 3-602 of the Act by repealing the treble damages provision. Section 3-602 now reads as follows:

"§ 3-602. The licensee shall pay the actual damages and costs and attorney's fees to a facility resident whose rights, as specified in Part 1 of Article II of this Act, are violated." 210 ILCS 45/3-602 (West Supp. 1995).

Upon enactment of Public Act 89-197, defendant moved to strike plaintiff's request for treble damages. On February 27, 1996, the trial court entered an interlocutory order granting defendant's motion to strike treble damages and, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (155 Ill. 2d R. 308), certifying the following question of law:

"Shall treble damages be stricken from actions brought under the Illinois Nursing Home Act, 210 ILCS 45/3-602, where the alleged facts supporting said actions occurred prior to the enactment of Public Act 89-0197 on July 21, 1995."

On April 4, 1996, we accepted jurisdiction to answer this question pursuant to ...


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