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Harris v. Chicago Transit Authority

September 11, 1998

SHAQUILLA HARRIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Campbell

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY.

HONORABLE JOSEPH N. CASIATO, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Plaintiff, Shaquilla Harris, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County dismissing her action against defendant, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), as time barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in section 41 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act (MTA Act). 70 ILCS 3605/41. On appeal, plaintiff contends that her action was timely filed within the two-year statute of limitations period set forth in section 13-211 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Code). 735 ILCS 5/13-211 (West 1996). For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts are relevant to this appeal. On January 30, 1992, plaintiff was injured while a passenger on a CTA bus. Plaintiff was born on May 8, 1977. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was 14-years old.

Six months after the accident, plaintiff retained counsel and filed a notice of personal injury with the CTA. On May 8, 1997, plaintiff's 20th birthday, plaintiff filed a one-count complaint against the CTA, alleging that she was injured when the doors of the CTA bus opened while the bus was in motion, throwing her to the ground. On May 21, 1997, plaintiff filed her first amended complaint.

On July 14, 1997, the CTA filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code and section 41 of the MTA Act. On September 11, 1997, the trial court granted the CTA's motion and dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice on the ground that plaintiff failed to bring her action against the CTA within one year after her eighteenth birthday. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal of this order on October 6, 1997.

On appeal, plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in dismissing her complaint as untimely filed. Plaintiff argues that the two-year statute of limitations in section 13-211 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (The Code) controls her claim for injuries sustained while a passenger on a CTA bus, rather than the one-year limitations provision of section 41 of the MTA Act.

Section 41 of the MTA Act provides in pertinent as follows:

"No civil action shall be commenced in any court against the Authority by any person for any injury to his person unless it is commenced within one year from the date that the injury was received or the cause of action accrued." 70 ILCS 3605/41 (West 1996).

Plaintiff argues that her complaint was timely filed pursuant to section 13-211 of the Code, which sets forth a two year statute of limitations for personal injury actions brought by minors, as follows:

"If the person entitled to bring an action, specified in Sections 13-201 through 13-210 of this Act, at the time the cause of action accrued, is under the age of 18 years, or is under a legal disability, then he or she may bring the action within 2 years after the person attains the age of 18 years, or the disability is removed. 735 ILCS 5/13-211 (West 1996).

Section 13-202 of the Code, incorporated by section 13-211 above, provides a two year statute of limitations for actions for personal injury. 735 ILCS 5/13-202 (West 1996). Thus, the Code provides a two year limitations period for filing a personal injury action from the date of a minor's 18th birthday.

The relationship between section 41 of the MTA Act and section 13-211 has not been previously addressed by this court. Prior to this time, in Serafini v. Chicago Transit Authority, 74 Ill. App. 3d 738, 393 N.E.2d 1120 (1979), this court addressed a conflict between the two-year limitations period for personal injuries set forth in section 21 of the former Limitations Act (Ill Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 83, par. 1 et. seq.), with the one-year limitations period in section 41 of the MTA Act, and held that while the one-year limitations period of section 41 of the MTA Act provides no exceptions in favor of minors:

"statutes in general in their terms have been frequently construed to contain exceptions in favor of minors in cases in which the minor's meritorious cause of action would otherwise have been barred due to the neglect or incompetence of his next friend, guardian or parent filing suit on his behalf. [Citations omitted]. It was under these circumstances that it was said that a minor should not be precluded from enforcing his rights ...


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