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Reyes v. Court of Claims

October 09, 1998

JOHN REYES, AS SPECIAL ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF FRANCES REYES, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
COURT OF CLAIMS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS; ROGER A. SOMER, AS CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF CLAIMS; RANDY PATCHETT, NORMA F. JANN, ROBERT G. FREDERICK, RICHARD T. MITCHELL, DAVID A. EPSTEIN, AND ANDREW M. RAUCCI, AS JUDGES OF THE COURT OF CLAIMS; AND THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS HOSPITAL, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois County Department, Chancery Division, No. 95 CH 9123; Honorable Ellis E. Reid, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

JUSTICE QUINN delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, special administrator of the estate of his mother, Frances Reyes (Reyes), filed suit in the circuit court of Cook County, seeking recovery in tort for medical malpractice for alleged negligent medical treatment by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois Hospital (the Board of Trustees), the governing body of the hospital. The trial court dismissed plaintiff's action, finding that it lacked jurisdiction to resolve the dispute because the Board of Trustees, as an arm of the state, could only be sued in the Court of Claims. Within 21 days of the dismissal of the action, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Court of Claims, which was dismissed because it was not timely filed within the statute of limitations period of two years. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a motion for rehearing and reconsideration with the Court of Claims. The Court of Claims held a hearing and denied the motion for reconsideration.

Plaintiff also filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the circuit court of Cook County, asserting that he was deprived of his constitutional right to due process by the Court of Claims. The trial court granted plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari, reversed the dismissal by the Court of Claims, and remanded the cause to the Court of Claims for further proceedings.

The Court of Claims appeals from the circuit court's order and remandment of the case. For the following reasons, we reverse the circuit court's order.

A brief substantive and procedural history of the case follows.

Frances Reyes died on August 24, 1986. October 7, 1985, was the last date of treatment of Frances Reyes. The two-year statute of limitations period began running on this date.

On October 1, 1987, plaintiff filed suit in the circuit court of Cook County against the Board of Trustees, the treating physicians and the hospital. The Board of Trustees responded by filing a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiff's claim had to be filed in the Court of Claims.

On April 4, 1988, the trial court granted the Board of Trustees' motion to dismiss but stated in its order that plaintiff was granted leave to refile his case against the Board of Trustees in the Court of Claims.

On April 20, 1988, plaintiff filed notice of his claim against the Board of Trustees with the clerk of the Court of Claims. On April 25, 1988, plaintiff filed his claim against the Board of Trustees in the Court of Claims.

Subsequently, the cause was continued by agreement until the Conclusion of the circuit court action at law against the other defendants in 1993. The Court of Claims action was returned to the "active calendar" call in 1994.

On March 21, 1995, the Board of Trustees filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint, arguing in part that the complaint was not timely filed within the statute of limitations period. The Board of Trustees argued that plaintiff's complaint was based on medical malpractice for treatment rendered in August 1985 and that such actions must be filed within two years of the date that the claim accrued. The Board of Trustees also asserted that the report of Dr. Oscar Sugar, plaintiff's expert, indicated that Reyes' last contact with the University of Illinois Hospital was on October 7, 1985, and that plaintiff's complaint was not filed in the Court of Claims until April 25, 1988. Dr. Sugar's report was attached to the Board of Trustees' motion to dismiss.

On June 1, 1995, plaintiff filed objections to the Board of Trustees' motion, arguing that section 13-217 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-217 (West 1994)) extended the limitations period under the circumstances of this case. Plaintiff argued that the claim arose out of treatment rendered by the Board of Trustees through October 7, 1985, that plaintiff originally had filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County within the two-year limitations period, and that the circuit court had dismissed that action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and granted plaintiff leave to refile the case in the Court of Claims.

On August 22, 1995, the Court of Claims entered an order dismissing plaintiff's claim as untimely. The court found that the "savings statute" in section 13-217 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-217 (West 1994)) did not apply to extend the limitations period in plaintiff's case because dismissal by the circuit court for lack of jurisdiction ...


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