Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 98 L 7145 Honorable Paddy H. McNamara, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hall
The plaintiffs, Wayne Prowell and John Prowell, appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County, granting summary judgment to the defendant, the City of Chicago (the City).
On June 10, 1999, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint against Loretto Hospital and the City. *fn1 In the complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that on June 24, 1997, Essie Prowell, the plaintiffs' mother, was transported to Loretto Hospital by ambulance. Upon arrival at the hospital, as Mrs. Prowell was removed from the ambulance on a stretcher, she fell off the stretcher onto the concrete ramp leading into the hospital and sustained injuries that resulted in her death on July 23, 1997.
The first amended complaint further alleged that the two emergency technicians (EMTs) who transported Mrs. Prowell from the ambulance into the hospital emergency room were negligent in that they:
"a. Failed to strap or otherwise secure ESSIE PROWELL's body to the full stretcher prior to transporting her to the ambulance to the hospital.
b. Failed to properly hold or grip the full stretcher while transporting ESSIE PROWELL's body from the ambulance to the Loretto emergency department.
c. Failed to communicate with the other emergency medical technician as to the movement of ESSIE PROWELL's body from the ambulance to the hospital.
d. Dropped and/or failed to hold ESSIE PROWELL's body while transporting her from the ambulance into the Loretto emergency department.
e. Moved ESSIE PROWELL's body from the ambulance into the Loretto emergency department in a manner inconsistent with training an emergency medical technician receives." *fn2
On April 11, 2001, the City filed its motion for summary judgment. The City contended that there was no evidence that the EMTs acted willfully or wantonly or that they had moved Mrs. Prowell in any way inconsistent with their training. In support of its motion, the City relied on the following deposition testimony.
Wayne Prowell testified that on June 24, 1997, he called 911 because his mother was feeling weak. After the ambulance arrived, the EMTs determined that Mrs. Prowell should be transported to the hospital. Wayne was present when Mrs. Prowell was placed on the stretcher; he did not notice any problems when his mother was moved from the house to the ambulance. Wayne rode to the hospital in the ambulance and stood by the rear door of the ambulance while Mrs. Prowell was being removed.
Wayne acknowledged that he had problems remembering what happened. He knew that Mrs. Prowell ended up on the ground, but he did not know how it happened. He did remember hearing one of the EMTs say to the other "See I told you," but he did not understand what that meant. Wayne did not recall whether the stretcher was in a position close to the ground or in a higher position or whether the stretcher moved at all after Mrs. Prowell was removed from the ambulance. He did not remember seeing any potholes in the area. Wayne could not remember whether Mrs. Prowell was strapped to the stretcher. He could not remember whether the stretcher collapsed or fell over. He has difficulty with his eyes and has problems visualizing up, sideways and directly down.
Andrea McEastland testified that he was a friend of Wayne Prowell's and was acquainted with Mrs. Prowell through the church they both attended. He was present at the time Mrs. Prowell was placed in the ambulance for the trip to the hospital. The EMTs strapped Mrs. Prowell on to the stretcher with straps around each of her legs and her waist. The stretcher was lowered and then placed in the ambulance.
Mr. McEastland then walked to the hospital and arrived just as Mrs. Prowell was being removed from the ambulance. One EMT was in the front of the stretcher, where Mrs. Prowell's head was, and the other was at the back of the stretcher. After the stretcher was removed from the ambulance, the EMTs pulled the wheels of the stretcher out and set it on the ground in the high position. Mrs. Prowell was still strapped to the stretcher, but Mr. McEastland did not know how secure she was because her arms were moving. After closing the ambulance doors, the EMTs, one in front and one in back of the stretcher, began to push it toward the hospital. As the stretcher was being pushed, the front legs of the stretcher "went in," and Mrs. Prowell slid out, striking her head on the pavement. One of the paramedics tried to catch her and in doing so may have then tipped over the stretcher. The stretcher had moved only a few feet from the ambulance when the accident occurred. Mr. McEastland recalled that one of the EMTs said to the other, "'I told you you didn't have the legs locked,' or something like that, about the legs didn't lock under the gurney *fn3 ." The other EMT ...