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Barrera v. Chicago Transit Authority

June 14, 2004

[5] DORIELA BARRERA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 03 M1 301096 The Honorable John G. Laurie, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice O'malley

[8]  This appeal arises from an action brought by plaintiff Doriela Barrera against the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for injuries she allegedly sustained when she suffered from an epileptic seizure on a CTA bus and the CTA employees left her unconscious on a public sidewalk where she was robbed. The trial court granted the CTA's motion to dismiss her cause of action on the basis that her complaint failed to describe the exact location of the accident as required under section 41 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act (Act) (70 ILCS 3605/41 (West 2002)). On appeal, plaintiff contends that her notice of claim adequately described the location where the accident occurred as required under the Act, and if not, her response to a letter from the CTA cured any defect in her notice of claim. Plaintiff also asserts that the CTA is estopped from arguing that she failed to comply with the section 41 filing requirement. We affirm.

[9]  In August 2002, plaintiff filed her "notice of claim and intent to commence civil action" with the CTA's secretary of the board and general counsel for the CTA. The notice provided that plaintiff:

[10]   "Sustained injury and damages caused by the [CTA] and its employees on July 29, 2002, as a passenger on the Archer Avenue bus between 9:29 A.M. and 9:49 A.M. [Plaintiff] experienced a seizure, requested emergency assistance, but was ejected from the bus and left in an unconscious state on a public sidewalk, during which time her money and umbrella were taken from her."

[11]   In a letter dated October 11, 2002, the CTA claims supervisor informed plaintiff's counsel:

[12]   "We find no report of this incident. Before we can process this claim, the following information will be required. Exact Date of Incident[;] Location of Incident[;] Time of Incident[;] Nature of Incident[;] Direction of CTA Vehicle[; and] CTA employee Badge and/or Bus Number[.] Upon receipt of the above information, we can then process this claim. For your convenience, a postage paid self-address envelope is being provided."

[13]   In a letter dated October 17, 2002, plaintiff's counsel provided the CTA claims supervisor the following information:

[14]   "Exact date of incident - July 29, 2002; location of incident - Northeast bound Route 62 Archer bus. [Plaintiff] boarded at Brighton and Archer and was discharged near Archer and Western. Time of incident - soon after boarding at 9:29 A.M. Nature of incident - [plaintiff] experienced an epileptic seizure and was removed from the bus and left unconscious on a city sidewalk. During the course of this time she was robbed. Direction of CTA bus - Northeast on Archer; CTA badge or bus number - Bus #62; Badge number of driver is unknown. The driver was white and appeared to be thin and in his upper forties. Two other CTA employees were on the bus. One was a short, black, thin man, wearing a mustache, and the second was Hispanic or white. The occurrence was promptly reported to the [CTA] on the date of the occurrence, and a report was taken by a Mrs. Miller, who advised [plaintiff] that CTA employees cannot call for ambulance assistance for passengers in distress."

[15]   In March 2003, plaintiff filed a complaint against the CTA for injuries she sustained due to the negligent actions taken by the CTA and its employees on July 29, 2002, when she was a passenger on the route 62 bus traveling northeast bound on Archer Avenue. Plaintiff's complaint restated the allegations in her notice of claim and also alleged that she boarded at Brighton.

[16]   The CTA filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint with prejudice pursuant to section 2-619 (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2002)) of the Code of Civil Procedure. The motion alleged that plaintiff did not strictly comply with section 41 in that she failed to list the place or location of the alleged accident as required under the Act.

[17]   On May 30, 2003, plaintiff filed a response to the CTA's motion to dismiss, alleging "the place of the occurrence is the interior of the moving Route 62 CTA bus," and plaintiff set forth the locations of where she boarded the bus and was discharged in her notice of claim and supplemental letter. On that same date, the trial court dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.

[18]   On appeal, plaintiff contends that her notice of claim to the CTA sufficiently described the location of the incident, and even if the notice of claim did not comply with section 41, her supplemental letter dated October 17, 2002, cured any defect in her description of the location.

[19]   A trial court may dismiss a cause of action if it is barred by an affirmative matter, that defeats the claim or avoids the legal effect. High v. Chicago Transit Authority, 345 Ill. App. 3d 964, 967 (2004); 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2002). We review section 2-619 dismissals under the de novo standard of review. High, 345 Ill. App. 3d at 967.

[20]   Section 41 of the Act provides that within six months of an alleged injury, the plaintiff must file written notice of the claim against the CTA in the office of the secretary of the Board and the general counsel for the CTA. Curtis v. Chicago Transit Authority, 341 Ill. App. 3d 573, 576 (2003); 70 ILCS 3605/41 (West 2002). The notice of claim must provide: (1) the name of the person to whom the cause of action has accrued; (2) the injured plaintiff's name and residence; (3) the date and approximate hour of the accident; (4) the place or location where the ...


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