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Wakulich v. Mraz

March 30, 2001

MARY LOUISE WAKULICH, INDIV. AND AS SPECIAL ADM'X OF THE ESTATE OF ELIZABETH WAKULICH, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DENNIS MRAZ, MICHAEL MRAZ, AND BRIAN MRAZ, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE

Not Released For Publication

MARY LOUISE WAKULICH, INDIV. AND AS SPECIAL ADM'X OF THE ESTATE OF ELIZABETH WAKULICH, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DENNIS MRAZ, MICHAEL MRAZ, AND BRIAN MRAZ, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Alfred J. Paul, Judge Presiding.

Plaintiff Mary Louise Wakulich, individually and as special administratrix of the estate of decedent Elizabeth Wakulich, brought an action against defendants Dennis, Michael, and Brian Mraz. Plaintiff's amended second amended complaint was dismissed by the trial court for failing to state a cause of action. Plaintiff now appeals.

 Plaintiff's amended second amended complaint alleged that on June 15, 1997, and continuing into the morning of June 16, her daughter, Elizabeth (decedent), was at the home of defendant Dennis Mraz, and his sons, defendants Michael and Brian Mraz. At the time, decedent was 16 years old, Michael was 21 years old, and Brian was 18 years old. On the evening of June 15, Michael and Brian provided decedent with a quart of an alcoholic beverage known as Goldschlager. The complaint alleges that during the evening of June 15 and early morning of June 16, Michael and Brian induced decedent to drink the entire quart of Goldschlager through goading, the application of great social pressure, and by offering money. Decedent, to collect the offered money, was required to consume the entire bottle of Goldschlager without losing consciousness or vomiting. The complaint alleges that Dennis was present in the home and knew or should have known that alcoholic beverages were being served to minors in his home.

In the early morning hours of June 16, decedent, after drinking the Goldschlager, lost consciousness. According to the complaint, Michael and Brian then placed her in the downstairs family room, where they observed her vomiting profusely and making "gurgling" sounds. They later checked on her again, at which time they removed her vomit- saturated blouse and placed a pillow under her head to prevent aspiration. According to the complaint, Michael and Brian did not seek medical attention for decedent and actually prevented others present in the home from calling 911 or seeking other medical intervention. Later in the morning, Dennis ordered Michael and Brian to remove decedent from the home. They then took her to a friend's home. Later, decedent was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

According to the complaint, Michael was subsequently convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a child, a Class A misdemeanor. 720 ILCS 130/2a (West 1996).

Plaintiff's amended second amended complaint brought claims against the three defendants pursuant to the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/0.01 et seq. (West 1996)) and the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6 (West 1996)). It was alleged that defendants Michael and Brian were negligent in inducing decedent into drinking to excess, and all three defendants were negligent in failing to act to protect decedent after voluntarily undertaking her care after she became unconscious.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended second amended complaint pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure for failure to state a cause of action. 735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1998). Their motion stated that the various counts should be dismissed because under long-standing Illinois law, there is no common law cause of action for alcohol liability beyond that explicitly provided for in the Dramshop Act (235 ILCS 5/6-21) (West 1996)), and because liability under that act does not extend to social hosts or those not engaged in the liquor business. The motion also contended that the defendants owed no legal duty to seek medical assistance for the decedent and that the counts brought pursuant to the Survival Act should be dismissed because an administratrix appointed pursuant to the Wrongful Death Act has no standing to commence Survival Act claims.

The trial court dismissed plaintiff's amended second amended complaint. Plaintiff now appeals.

Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion to dismiss her amended second amended complaint for failure to state a cause of action. In ruling on a section 2-615 motion to dismiss, it must be determined whether the allegations of the complaint, when considered in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, sufficiently state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. Board of Directors of Bloomfield Club Recreation Ass'n v. Hoffman Group, Inc., 186 Ill. 2d 419, 424, 712 N.E.2d 330 (1999). Unless it clearly appears that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that will entitle him or her to relief, a cause of action will not be dismissed on the pleadings. Bloomfield Club Recreation Ass'n, 186 Ill. 2d at 424; Charles Hester Enterprises, Inc. v. Illinois Founders Insurance Co., 114 Ill. 2d 278, 286, 499 N.E.2d 1319 (1986). For purposes of judging the sufficiency of a complaint, all well-pleaded facts must be taken as true. Charles Hester Enterprises, 114 Ill. 2d at 286. A trial court's dismissal of an action pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure for failure to state a cause of action is reviewed de novo. Bloomfield Club Recreation Ass'n, 186 Ill. 2d at 424.

In Charles v. Seigfried, 165 Ill. 2d 482, 491, 651 N.E.2d 154 (1995), our supreme court held that the entire field of alcohol-related liability had been preempted by the Illinois General Assembly through its passage and continual amendment of the Dramshop Act. The court further held that the legislative preemption extended to social hosts who provide alcoholic beverages to another person, whether that person is an adult, underage, or a minor. Charles, 165 Ill. 2d at 491. The court traced the rule that no social host liability exists in Illinois under the common law or Dramshop Act back to the 1889 case of Cruse v. Aden, 127 Ill. 231, 20 N.E. 73 (1889). See Charles, 165 Ill. 2d at 487- 88.

Justice McMorrow, joined by Justice Harrison, wrote a lengthy dissent to the majority opinion in Charles, arguing for the recognition of social host liability for the provision of alcohol to minors who become intoxicated and are subsequently injured in alcohol-related vehicle accidents. Charles, 165 Ill. 2d at 504-23 (McMorrow, ...


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