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Eads v. Heritage Enterprises

September 26, 2001

BETTY LOU EADS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
HERITAGE ENTERPRISES, INC.; RUTLEDGE JOINT VENTURES, LLC, D/B/A MEMORIAL CONTINUCARE; AND MEMORIAL HEALTH VENTURES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 99L190 Honorable Robert J. Eggers, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough

Released for publication October 30, 2001.

BETTY LOU EADS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
HERITAGE ENTERPRISES, INC.; RUTLEDGE JOINT VENTURES, LLC, D/B/A MEMORIAL CONTINUCARE; AND MEMORIAL HEALTH VENTURES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 99L190 Honorable Robert J. Eggers, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough

PUBLISHED

 In September 1999, the trial court dismissed the first-amended complaint of plaintiff, Betty Lou Eads, and allowed her 90 days within which to file a second-amended complaint. In November 1999, the trial court granted Eads leave to seek interlocutory review under Supreme Court Rule 308 (155 Ill. 2d R. 308) from this court to answer a certified question. We answer the question in the negative and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

In June 1998, Eads was a resident of Memorial ContinuCare (ContinuCare), an extended-term nursing facility owned and operated by defendants, Heritage Enterprises Inc., Rutledge Joint Ventures, LLC, d/b/a Memorial ContinuCare, and Memorial Health Ventures. During her stay at ContinuCare, Eads fell and fractured her hip while attempting to use a rest room. In May 1999, Eads filed suit against defendants, alleging numerous causes of action, including breach of contract and fiduciary duty, res ipsa loquitur, and violations of the Nursing Home Care Act (Nursing Home Act) (210 ILCS 45/3-601 (West 1998)).

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-613(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-613(a) (West 1998)). The trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that Eads' complaint improperly commingled causes of action in violation of section 2-613 of the Code but granted Eads leave to replead.

In July 1999, Eads filed a three-count amended complaint, alleging only that defendants acted negligently under the Nursing Home Act. In her amended complaint, Eads alleged that she became feverish, weak, confused, and unsteady on her feet, suffered hallucinations, and was unable to comprehend verbal instructions. Eads claims that the ContinuCare staff members knew of her weakened condition and that she was unsteady, unresponsive, and disoriented, yet permitted her to repeatedly get out of bed, without assistance, to use the bathroom. Eads further claims that defendants were negligent by failing to (1) adequately supervise her activity, (2) ensure that she did not walk without assistance, (3) respond to her call light when she requested assistance, (4) equip her bed with a pressure release to alert staff that Eads had risen from her bed, and (5) adequately staff the facility to ensure appropriate assistance would be provided.

Defendants again moved to dismiss Eads' amended complaint (735 ILCS 5/2-622(g) (West 1998)), arguing that her claim sounded in "healing art malpractice." Specifically, defendants complained that Eads must (1) attach an affidavit attesting that she or her attorney had spoken with a qualified physician who thought her claims were meritorious and (2) include a copy of the physician's written report made after reviewing Eads' medical records. 735 ILCS 5/2-622(a) (West 1998). Eads responded that her claims were not "healing art malpractice" claims but were negligence claims specifically allowed by the Nursing Home Act (210 ILCS 45/3-601 (West 1998)); therefore, she was not obligated to file an accompanying affidavit and written physician's report.

In November 1999, the trial court granted defendants' motion and dismissed Eads' amended complaint but granted her leave to replead. Eads chose instead to seek interlocutory review under Supreme Court Rule 308 (155 Ill. 2d R. 308). This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. The Certified Question

The trial court certified the following question:

"In a case where the [p]laintiff has sued a nursing home for injuries sustained as a result of alleged violations by the nursing home, its staff[,] and employees, of the [Nursing Home Act] and the regulations promulgated pursuant thereto [77 Ill. Adm. Code §300 et seq. (West 2001)], is the [p]laintiff required to comply with the mandates of [section 2-622 of the Code]?"

Plaintiff urges this court to answer this certified question in the negative, arguing that requiring plaintiffs who file a cause of action pursuant to the Nursing Home Act to comply with section 2-622 of the Code would nullify the purpose of the Nursing Home Act. In addition, Eads argues that the Nursing Home Act and section 2-622 are irreconcilably in conflict. We agree with both propositions for the following reasons.

B. The Purpose of the Statutes

After reviewing the purpose of each statute, we conclude that their purposes are opposite. The Nursing Home Act encourages litigation against owners and licensees of a nursing home for the protection of nursing home residents, and section ...


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