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Widmer v. Hoover

July 30, 2003

MICHAEL WIDMER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
KAREN LYNN HOOVER, D/B/A MISS KAREN'S, JAMES BRISTLE, AND PAMELA R. BRISTLE DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 21st Judicial Circuit, Iroquois County, Illinois No. 02-LM-20 Honorable David A Youck, Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McDADE

UNPUBLISHED

The plaintiff, Michael Widmer, appeals an order of the circuit court dismissing his claim seeking compensation for liabilities he incurred as a result of the death of his wife, Danna Widmer. We affirm.

FACTS

On February 24, 2001, Danna Widmer and her friend Darla Kuster patronized Miss Karen's, a tavern owned by defendant Karen Hoover. At the bar, Danna drank a substantial amount of alcohol and became drunk. After midnight, on the morning of the 25th, Danna and Darla left the tavern. Danna was driving and dropped Darla off at her house in Loda, Illinois, near Lake Iroquois. Soon after leaving Darla's house, Danna drove her car into the lake and drowned.

Michael Widmer, Danna's widower, became liable for medical and funeral expenses as a result of Danna's death. He filed a two-count complaint against Karen Hoover, James Bristle and Pamela Bristle. Count I of the complaint sought damages under the Dramshop Act (Act) (235 ILCS 5/6--21 (West 2002) against Hoover, as the owner of the tavern where Danna became intoxicated. Count II sought damages under the Act against the Bristles as owners of the property where the tavern is located. The plaintiff alleged that his wife became drunk at Miss Karen's and as a result of her intoxication, drove her car into the lake and drowned. He also alleged that as a result of his wife's death, he incurred damage to his property in the amount for which he was liable for his wife's medical and funeral expenses under the Rights of Married Persons Act (Family Expense Act). (750 ILCS 65/15 (West 2002)).

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss under section 2--615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2--615 (West 2002)) and argued that the Dramshop Act barred the plaintiff from recovering damages for injuries sustained by the intoxicated driver. The trial court agreed with the defendants' interpretation of the statute and dismissed the action. The plaintiff appeals.

ANALYSIS

The single issue on appeal is whether the widower of an intoxicated driver who is killed in an auto accident as a result of her intoxication can recover under the Dramshop Act (235 ILCS 5/6--21 (West 2002)) for medical and funeral expenses for which he became liable because of the Family Expense Act (750 ILCS 65/15 (West 2002)). The trial court found that the Act explicitly barred the plaintiff's cause of action, since the claim seeks recovery of amounts paid as a result of the injury and death of an intoxicated driver. The plaintiff argues that he has a statutory right to recover for injury to his property, regardless of how that injury arose, and asks this court to reverse the dismissal.

A section 2--615 motion to dismiss should be granted when the allegations in the complaint, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, fail to support a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. Bea v. Bethany Home, Inc., 333 Ill. App. 3d 410, 413, 755 N.E.2d 621, 623 (2002). We will review the dismissal de novo. Smith v. Malone, 317 Ill. App. 3d 974, 979, 742 N.E.2d 785, 788 (2000).

The Dramshop Act provides:

"Every person who is injured within this state, in person or property, by any intoxicated person has a right of action in his or her own name, severally or jointly, against any person, licensed under the laws of this State or any other state to sell liquor, who, by selling or giving liquor, *** causes the intoxication of such person." 235 ILCS 5/6--21 (West 2002).

Effective January 1, 1986, the statutory liability was limited by the following provision:

"nothing in this Act shall be construed to confer a cause of action for injuries to the person or property of the intoxicated person himself, nor shall anything in this Act be construed to confer a cause of action for loss of means of support on the intoxicated person himself or on any person claiming to be supported by such ...


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