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Arteman v. Clinton Community Unit School Dist. No. 15

November 22, 2000

JEREMY ARTEMAN AND STEVE ARTEMAN, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
CLINTON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 15, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of De Witt County No. 99L4 Honorable Dan L. Flannell, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

In March 1999, plaintiffs, Jeremy Arteman and his father, Steve Arteman (collectively, the Artemans), sued defendant, Clinton Community Unit School District No. 15 (School District), for injuries Jeremy sustained while roller blading during a high school physical education class. In April 1999, the School District filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 1998)). In July 1999, the trial court determined that the School District was immune from liability under section 3-108(a) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) (745 ILCS 10/3-108(a) (West 1996)) and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Artemans appeal, and we reverse and remand.

I. BACKGROUND

In March 1999, the Artemans filed a complaint alleging that on March 20, 1998, Jeremy (then 17 years old) was a student at Clinton Community High School. On that date, students in Jeremy's physical education class were required to participate in either a running exercise or a roller blading session. The complaint also alleged that students who chose to roller blade were provided with roller blades that "were of an experimental design with the brake mechanism located at the toe of the boot instead of the heel." The students were not offered any other roller blading equipment. As Jeremy attempted to roller blade around the wooden gym floor, he fell, breaking two bones in his right leg. Count I of the complaint alleged negligence on the part of the School District for failing to provide (1) "the necessary safety equipment for rollarblading [sic] such as[,] but not limited to[,] helmets, shinguards, kneeguards, [and] elbow pads"; or (2) "rollarblades [sic] that were suitable for their intended use." Count III of the complaint alleged that the School District's failure to provide necessary roller blading equipment constituted willful and wanton misconduct. Counts II and IV sought reimbursement of medical expenses pursuant to the Rights of Married Persons Act, commonly referred to as the Family Expenses Act (750 ILCS 65/15 (West 1996)).

In April 1999, the School District moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 1998)). The School District claimed that it was immune from liability under several sections of the Act, including sections 2-201 and 3-108(a) (745 ILCS 10/2-201, 3-108(a) (West 1996)).

In July 1999, after hearing arguments on the School District's motion, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice on the ground that section 3-108(a) of the Act immunized the School District from liability. The court specifically found that the complaint essentially alleged that the School District failed to supervise Jeremy's physical education class. The court later denied the Artemans' motion to reconsider, and this appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

Section 2-619 motions to dismiss provide a means for disposing of issues of law or easily proved issues of fact. Kedzie & 103rd Currency Exchange, Inc. v. Hodge, 156 Ill. 2d 112, 115, 619 N.E.2d 732, 735 (1993). In the present case, the ground advanced for dismissing the complaint is that the claims asserted therein are barred by a defense that completely negates the asserted causes of action. See Payne v. Lake Forest Community High School District 115, 268 Ill. App. 3d 783, 784-85, 644 N.E.2d 835, 836 (1994); 735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 1998). The trial court should grant the motion and dismiss the complaint if, after construing the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, no set of facts can be proved that would entitle the plaintiff to recover. We review the trial court's ruling on a defendant's section 2-619 motion de novo. Henrich v. Libertyville High School, 186 Ill. 2d 381, 386, 712 N.E.2d 298, 301 (1998).

B. Immunity Under the Act

The Artemans argue that the trial court erred by dismissing their complaint with prejudice. Specifically, they contend that neither section 3-108(a) nor section 2-201 of the Act provides the School District with immunity.

1. Section 3-108(a) Immunity

The Artemans contend that section 3-108(a) of the Act does not bar their claims against the School District because (1) that section is specifically limited to situations in which a failure to supervise an activity on or use of public property results in injury (see 745 ILCS 10/3-108(a) (West 1996)); and (2) they are not alleging that the School District failed to supervise Jeremy's physical education class but instead are alleging that the School District failed to provide appropriate equipment.

We agree that the trial court erred by determining that the School District was immune from liability pursuant to section 3-108(a) of the Act. In making that determination, the court relied upon Johnson v. Decatur Park District, 301 Ill. App. 3d 798, 808, 704 N.E.2d 416, 423 (1998). In that case, the plaintiffs alleged that during tumbling maneuvers, the park district failed to (1) provide a safety harness or belt, (2) warn of the dangers associated with using a minitrampoline and mats, (3) provide adequate spotters, (4) warn and instruct participants concerning the dangers associated with using a minitrampoline and mats and of the known serious risk of severe spinal cord injury, (5) properly position the mats to prevent gaps, and (6) provide a safe coach. This court held that the gist of those allegations was that the park district, through its employee coach, failed to adequately supervise activities on the minitrampoline and failed to warn of the dangers of spinal cord injury attendant to use of the minitrampoline. Johnson, 301 Ill. App. ...


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