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Paszkowski v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

November 18, 2004

MAREK PASZKOWSKI, APPELLEE,
v.
THE METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT OF GREATER CHICAGO, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice McMORROW

Docket No. 96220-Agenda 10-January 2004.

In early 2000, plaintiff Marek Paszkowski filed a negligence suit against defendant, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (District), seeking damages for injuries allegedly sustained by plaintiff in 1998 while he was working on the District's deep tunnel construction project. Plaintiff brought his suit in the circuit court of Cook County. The District filed a section 2-619 motion to dismiss plaintiff's claim on the ground that it was not brought within the one-year limitation period in section 8-101 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 1998)). The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, and plaintiff appealed. The appellate court reversed, holding that plaintiff's claim was governed by the four-year limitation period in section 13-214(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/13-214(a) (West 1998)). According to the appellate court, plaintiff's claim was timely filed under section 13-214(a). We allowed the District's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a). We now reverse the judgment of the appellate court.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his original, one-count complaint on February 9, 2000, seeking damages for injuries allegedly sustained on March 5, 1998. In the complaint, plaintiff alleged negligence on the part of the District with regard to a cement remix car that apparently was involved in the injury to plaintiff. In an amended complaint, plaintiff added three counts (strict liability, breach of warranty, and negligent sale) against the manufacturer of the cement remix car. The only claim at issue in the appeal before us is count I, the claim against the District.

In January 2001, the District moved to dismiss count I of the complaint on the ground that plaintiff failed to file the complaint within the one-year limitation period set forth in section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 1998)). Plaintiff responded that the proper limitation period was four years as provided in section 13-214(a) of the Code, which applies to construction-related causes of action. The circuit court denied defendant's motion to dismiss. Relying on Zimmer v. Village of Willowbrook, 242 Ill. App. 3d 437 (1993), the circuit court found that section 13-214(a) was the applicable statute and plaintiff therefore had four years, not one year, to bring his claim.

Defendant filed a motion to reconsider, relying upon Greb v. Forest Preserve District, 323 Ill. App. 3d 461 (2001), which was decided 11 days after the circuit court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss in the case at bar. Greb held that any tort action against a local governmental entity or its employees must be brought within the one-year limitation period in section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act, rather than the four-year period in section 13-214(a) of the Code. In light of the decision in Greb, the circuit court in the case at bar granted defendant's motion to reconsider and dismiss count I of plaintiff's amended complaint as time-barred under section 8-101. Pursuant to Rule 304(a) (155 Ill. 2d R. 304(a)), the court found that there was no just reason for delaying enforcement or appeal of its ruling.

Plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court reversed. 338 Ill. App. 3d 781. The appellate court rejected Greb as incorrectly decided, and held that, in the case at bar, it was the four-year limitation period in section 13-214(a) that applied, rather than the one-year period in section 8-101. We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a). In addition, we granted leave to the following entities to submit briefs as amici curiae (155 Ill. 2d R. 345): the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association; the City of Chicago and the Illinois Municipal League; and the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, the Illinois Governmental Association of Pools, the Illinois Association of School Boards, and the Illinois Association of School Administrators.

ANALYSIS

Defendant's motion to dismiss count I of plaintiff's amended complaint was brought pursuant to section 2-619(a)(5) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(5) (West 2000)), which provides for the dismissal of an action that was not commenced within the time limited by law. When ruling on a section 2-619 motion to dismiss, a court must interpret all pleadings and supporting documents in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. In re Chicago Flood Litigation, 176 Ill. 2d 179, 189 (1997); In re Parentage of M.J., 203 Ill. 2d 526, 533 (2003). The motion should be granted only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would support a cause of action. Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1 v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 189 Ill. 2d 200, 206 (2000); Chicago Flood Litigation, 176 Ill. 2d at 189. We review both the dismissal of a complaint and the interpretation of a statute de novo. In re Parentage of M.J., 203 Ill. 2d at 533.

In the case at bar, the statutes at issue, as noted, are section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 1998)) and section 13-214(a) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/13-214(a) (West 1998)). Section 8-101 provides:

"No civil action may be commenced in any court against a local entity or any of its employees for any injury unless it is commenced within one year from the date that the injury was received or the cause of action accrued. For purposes of this Article, the term `civil action' includes any action, whether based upon the common law or statutes or Constitution of this State." (Emphases added.) 745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 1998).

The term "local public entity," as defined in the Tort Immunity Act, includes sanitary districts such as defendant. 745 ILCS 10/1-206 (West 1998).

Section 13-214(a) of the Code, which was enacted subsequent to section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act, provides, in pertinent part:

"(a) Actions based upon tort, contract or otherwise against any person for an act or omission of such person in the design, planning, supervision, observation or management of construction, or construction of an improvement to real property shall be commenced within 4 years from the time the person bringing an action, or his or her privity, knew or should ...


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