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10/20/97 THELMA J. HUTSON v. CHRIS HARTKE

October 20, 1997

THELMA J. HUTSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHRIS HARTKE, D/B/A HARTKE ENTERPRISE, A/K/A HARTKE HOG FARM, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Effingham County. No. 95-L-63. Honorable Dennis E. Middendorff, Judge, presiding.

The Honorable Justice Maag delivered the opinion of the court. Kuehn, P.j., and Hopkins, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maag

The Honorable Justice MAAG delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff appeals from a circuit court order finding her cause to be barred by the statute of limitations and dismissing her complaint with prejudice.

The plaintiff, Thelma Hutson, began working for the defendant, Hartke Hog Farm, in 1991. On August 30, 1993, Thelma had been working in Hartke's farrowing barn for 15 minutes when she noticed a strong ammonia odor and almost blacked out. Thelma was able to escape the strong fumes and make it outside without fainting. The ammonia fumes caused a burning sensation in Thelma's nose and throat.

Ammonia is apparently a natural byproduct of hog waste and therefore is often found in hog barns. The ammonia fumes tend to be the strongest when the waste pits are full. The plaintiff admitted, however, that she had never experienced ammonia fumes as strong as those present on that day.

Thelma proceeded to wash her face and get a drink of water. When she reentered the barn to finish her work, Thelma wore a paper mask to cover her mouth and nose. By the end of the work day on August 30, 1993, Thelma began developing a cough. The next morning, on August 31, 1993, Thelma had a sore, scratchy throat. Thelma then informed Hartke of her encounter the previous day with the strong ammonia fumes and told Hartke that she believed that the fumes might have caused her cough and sore throat. Hartke apparently told the plaintiff that the strong fumes could have been the result of a malfunction with the pit fan.

Thelma's cough got worse on August 31, 1993, prompting her to take cough medicine that evening. The coughing progressively worsened. On September 8, 1993, Thelma left work due to her cough and was admitted to the hospital emergency room. Thelma told the doctor that she suspected the cough was the result of the ammonia fumes she breathed at work on August 30, 1993. The doctor diagnosed Thelma with pneumonia.

Thelma stayed in the hospital until September 11, 1993, and continued to battle the pneumonia for several weeks thereafter. As a result of the pneumonia bout, Thelma was informed that her bronchial tubes were permanently weakened.

The plaintiff filed a complaint on August 31, 1995, alleging injury caused by ammonia fumes as a result of the defendant's negligence in not providing adequate ventilation in the farrowing barn. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1992)).

On November 6, 1995, the trial court granted the defendant's section 2-619 motion to dismiss.

The trial court's order provided:

"The Plaintiff complains of injury arising from a single traumatic event which allegedly occurred on August 30, 1993. As such, the complaint filed on August 31, 1995[,] was filed beyond the statute of limitations. Cause dismissed with prejudice."

On appeal, the plaintiff contends that her complaint was timely filed because her cause of action did not accrue until she first learned that her injury may have been wrongfully caused, i.e., on ...


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