Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell County, Illinois No. 94 CH 80 Honorable Donald D. Courson, Judge, Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Holdridge
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
The People ex rel John R. Lumpkin, M.D., Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, brought a nuisance action against Peggy Frantz, individually and d/b/a Lake Manor, and Retirement Home Consultants, Inc., among others, alleging that the defendants operated or maintained a facility in violation of the Nursing Home Car Act (Act)(210 ILCS 45/1-101 et seq. (West 1994)). The complaint alleged that Frantz provided personal care, sheltered care, and nursing care to individuals at Lake Manor, and sought that the facility should be declared a public nuisance in accordance with section 3-701 of the Act. 210 ILCS 45/3-701 (West 1994).
Following a bench trial, the trial court determined that the defendants were not subject to the licensing requirements of the Act, in that neither the ownership nor management of Lake Manor exerted control over or provided personal care, sheltered care or nursing care to any of the residents of Lake Manor. The trial court dismissed the complaint and entered judgment for the defendants. The People appealed and we affirm.
The evidence adduced at trial was largely undisputed. Lake Manor is a retirement home owned by Peggy Frantz, which Frantz had owned and rented rooms to elderly residents since approximately 1984. She had never received a licence to operate Lake Manor as a shelter care facility and had never applied for a nursing home licence. At the time the complaint was filed, Frantz lived in the downstairs of the home and approximately 21 individuals lived upstairs.
Prior to January 1, 1994, according to unrebutted testimony from inspectors from the Department, Frantz had approximately 11 employees, some of whom were engaged in providing personal and nursing care to some residents. However, some time in 1993, Frantz was alerted to the fact that she may be in violation of the Act by providing certain services to her residents. In response, she entered into a contract, effective January 1, 1994, with defendant Retirement Homes Consultants, Inc. (RHC), a corporation owned solely by David Foster. The acknowledged purpose of Frantz' contract with RHC was to separate the personal and nursing services aspects of residents' needs from the physical needs of the residents. The record is unrebutted that Frantz had no ownership in RHC, and that neither RHC nor Foster had an ownership interest in Lake Manor.
Among the duties RHC performed on behalf of Lake Manor was assisting in procuring a licenced home health care agency, which would provide personal care or nursing care for the residents of Lake Manor. Effective January 1, 1994, Physician's Home Health Care of Peoria (Physician's) took over all aspects of personal and nursing care for the residents. The record established that Frantz had no ownership interest or control over Physician's. However, it was unrebutted that Foster had an option to purchase Physician's, although Frantz was not aware of that option.
At the point in time that Physician's took over providing personal and nursing services to the residents of Lake Manor, several of Frantz' former employees, who met state requirements, became employees of Physician's Home Health Care of Peoria (Physician's). Physician's also agreed to provide a presence in the home on a 24 hour per day basis.
Since January 1, 1994, residents contracted with Lake Manor to provide food, shelter and laundry services only. The rental agreement between Lake Manor and each individual resident stated that Lake Manor would provide lodging, laundry services, and three meals per day. The agreement further specified that Lake Manor would not provide personal services or nursing services to any residents. Lake Manor employed five individuals; three cooks, one person to do the laundry and one to oversee the general maintenance of the property itself.
The record established that Lake Manor did not hire or have direct control over any individuals providing personal care or nursing services after January 1, 1994. The residents contracted separately and independently with home health care agencies licenced and regulated by the Department of Health under the Home Health Agency Licencing Act (210 ILCS 55/1.01 et seq. (West 1994)). Initially, it appears from the record that all residents were required by RHC to contract with Physician's for personal and nursing services. However, by the time the complaint was filed on December 22, 1994, this requirement had been eliminated and approximately six licenced home health care agencies, including Physicians, were providing personal care and nursing services to the residents of Lake Manor.
The trial court determined that Lake Manor was not a facility subject to regulation under the Act and dismissed the State's complaint. This appeal ensued.
The issue to be resolved in this matter is whether the trial court erred in holding that Lake Manor was not a facility subject to regulation as that term is defined under section 1-113 of the Nursing Home Act (210 ILCS 45/1-113 (West 1994)). Questions of the scope and application of a statute are subject to de novo review. In re Marriage of May, 286 Ill. App. 3d 1060 (1997).
The preeminent goal of a court construing a statute is to give effect to the legislature's intent. Jahn v. Troy Fire Protection District, 163 Ill. 2d 275, 282 (1994). Statutory language is the best indicator of this intent, and where such language reveals the legislative drafters' intent, we may not resort to other aids for construction. People v. Brooks, 158 Ill. 2d 260, 264 (1994). Here, the language of Act establishes the legislative intent that retirement homes providing only food, shelter and laundry services were not intended to be required to fulfil licensing requirements under the Act.
The Act provides that "[n]o person may establish, operate, maintain, offer or advertise a facility within this State unless and until he obtains a valid licence ***." (210 ILCS 45/3-102 ...