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Lott v. Strang

March 31, 2000

ROGER LOTT AND JEAN LOTT, BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND ON BEHALF OF KYLE LOTT, A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
V.
WILLIAM STRANG, AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR FOR WILLIAM C. SEEHAUSEN, DECEASED, DEFENDANTS,
AND
WAYNE SEEHAUSEN AND BONNIE SEEHAUSEN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

Appeal from Circuit Court of Jersey County No. 98L19 Honorable Thomas G. Russell, Judge Presiding.

In September 1998, plaintiffs, Roger and Jean Lott, sued defendants Wayne and Bonnie Seehausen and the estate of their son, William Seehausen, an unemancipated minor, for damages resulting from an automobile collision. The Lotts alleged that William's negligence caused the collision. In counts IV, V, and VI of their complaint, the Lotts further alleged that Wayne and Bonnie's negligent supervision of William was a proximate cause of their injuries. The trial court struck those allegations and dismissed the Lotts' common-law claims against Wayne and Bonnie, pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1998)). The Lotts bring this interlocutory appeal, arguing that their complaint states a cause of action against Wayne and Bonnie. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In September 1996, William was driving eastward on Route 16 in Jersey County. At the same time, Jean Lott and her son, Kyle, were traveling west on Route 16. William's car crossed the centerline and collided head-on with the Lotts' vehicle. As a result, William died, and Jean and Kyle were injured. The Lotts allege that William was intoxicated when the accident occurred.

In September 1998, the Lotts filed a multicount complaint against William's estate, Wayne, and Bonnie. In counts IV through VI of their complaint, the Lotts alleged that (1) Wayne and Bonnie had a duty to supervise William so as to prevent him from doing harm to others, and (2) they breached that duty. Specifically, the Lotts alleged that Wayne and Bonnie knew that William had previously been at fault in an automobile accident in which he struck a Jersey County deputy sheriff, and yet they failed to take appropriate steps to prevent William from again harming others. In April 1999, they amended counts IV through VI to add that Wayne and Bonnie had the opportunity to control William by (1) taking away his car keys, (2) taking away his driving privileges, and (3) not letting him drive unless they were with him to supervise.

In May 1999, Wayne and Bonnie filed a motion to dismiss counts IV through VI pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code. In that motion, Wayne and Bonnie admitted that William was involved in an accident in October 1995 in which he struck a Jersey County sheriff's car.

In July 1999, the trial court granted Wayne and Bonnie's motion and struck counts IV, V, and VI of the Lotts' complaint, thereby dismissing the Lotts' common-law claims against Wayne and Bonnie. The trial court entered a finding that no just reason existed for delaying enforcement or appeal of its order (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)), and this appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

In Vernon v. Schuster, 179 Ill. 2d 338, 344, 688 N.E.2d 1172, 1175 (1997), the supreme court addressed the standard of review for cases dismissed pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code and wrote the following:

"The question presented by a section 2-615 motion to dismiss is whether the allegations of the complaint, when viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, are sufficient to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. [Citations.] A cause of action will not be dismissed on the pleadings unless it clearly appears that no set of facts can be proved which will entitle the plaintiff to recover. [Citation.]

*** Since ruling on a motion to dismiss does not require a court to weigh facts or determine credibility, we review the complaint de novo."

B. Parental Liability

Parents in Illinois are not liable for the torts of their minor children merely because of the parent-child relationship. Bishop v. Morich, 250 Ill. App. 3d 366, 370, 621 N.E.2d 43, 46 (1993). Parents may be liable, however, if they failed to adequately control or supervise their children pursuant to section 316 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (hereinafter ...


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