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Salte v. YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago Foundation

August 02, 2004

TERRY ALAN SALTE AND CHARLENE SALTE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
YMCA OF METROPOLITAN CHICAGO FOUNDATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 03-L-19. Honorable John R. Goshgarian, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hutchinson

PUBLISHED

Plaintiffs, Terry Alan Salte and Charlene Salte, filed a complaint for negligence and loss of consortium against defendant, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago Foundation. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--615 (West 2002)). The trial court granted the motion and plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Plaintiffs' complaint contained the following allegations. Defendant owned and operated a health club and extended memberships to the public for a fee. On April 29, 2003, Terry, a member of the club, was exercising on one of defendant's treadmills. At that time, defendant had on its staff a paramedic who was nearby assisting another member of the club on a different fitness machine. While using the treadmill, Terry suffered a cardiac arrest. Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that Terry's cardiac arrest was a predictable and reasonably foreseeable event. Plaintiffs alleged that defendant had a duty to equip its "paramedics and athletic or fitness trainers" with cardiac defibrillators, which plaintiffs alleged were inexpensive, easy to use, and readily available. Defendant did not have any defibrillators on its premises. Plaintiffs alleged that, as a direct and proximate result of defendant's negligent failure to equip its facility and paramedics with a defibrillator, Terry remained in cardiac arrest for eight minutes until the county paramedics arrived. Plaintiffs alleged that this delay led to his brain suffering an anoxic event, which in turn led to physical and emotional damages.

Defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code. Defendant argued that it was under no duty to have a defibrillator on its premises. The court granted the motion and plaintiffs appeal. On appeal, plaintiffs argue that (1) defendant had a duty to equip its paramedic with a defibrillator; (2) defendant voluntarily undertook the duty to equip its paramedic with a defibrillator; and (3) defendant's reference to a defibrillator as a "sophisticated medical device" in its motion to dismiss was improper. We review de novo the dismissal of a complaint pursuant to section 2--615 of the Code. Green v. Trinity International University, 344 Ill. App. 3d 1079, 1085 (2003).

A. Duty to Equip Paramedic With a Defibrillator

Plaintiffs first argue that defendant had a duty to equip its paramedic with a defibrillator. "To state a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed plaintiff a duty of care, that defendant breached that duty, and that plaintiff suffered an injury proximately caused by the breach." Godee v. Illinois Youth Soccer Ass'n, 327 Ill. App. 3d 695, 697 (2002). Whether a duty exists is a question of law. Godee, 327 Ill. App. 3d at 697.

Initially, we note that plaintiffs' complaint alleges that defendant had a duty to have a defibrillator on its premises for use by the paramedics on its staff. Plaintiffs do not explicitly allege that defendant had a duty to use a defibrillator on Terry. However, because complaints are to be liberally construed, we read plaintiffs' complaint to include the allegation that defendant had a duty to use a defibrillator on Terry. See Lloyd v. County of Du Page, 303 Ill. App. 3d 544, 552 (1999) (courts are to construe pleadings liberally to do substantial justice between the parties). Construed in this way, the complaint alleges that defendant had a duty to have a defibrillator on its premises and that defendant had a duty to use such a defibrillator in an attempt to rescue or aid Terry.

"Our common law generally imposes no duty to rescue an injured stranger upon one who did not cause the injury in the first instance." Rhodes v. Illinois Central Gulf R.R., 172 Ill. 2d 213, 232 (1996). "A duty to take some affirmative action to aid another may arise, however, where a special relationship exists between the parties." Rhodes, 172 Ill. 2d at 232. The Restatement (Second) of Torts (the Restatement) provides:

"(1) A common carrier is under a duty to its passengers to take reasonable action

(a) to protect them against unreasonable risk of physical harm, and

(b) to give them first aid after it knows or has reason to know that they are ill or injured, and to care for them until they can be cared for by others.

***

(3) A possessor of land who holds it open to the public is under a similar duty to members of the public who enter in response to his invitation." Restatement (Second) of Torts §314A, at 118 (1965). The special relationship set forth in section 314A(3) of the Restatement includes the relationship of business owner and business invitee. See Elizondo v. Ramirez, 324 Ill. App. 3d 67, 74-75 (2001); Parra v. Tarasco, Inc., 230 Ill. App. 3d 819, 822 (1992). Here, the business owner/business invitee relationship clearly existed between the parties. Accordingly, defendant ...


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