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Emily Green, Special Administrator, of the Ruben Ivy, Deceased v. Chicago Board of Education

February 22, 2011

EMILY GREEN, SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR, OF THE RUBEN IVY, DECEASED,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION, A BODY POLITIC AND CORPORATE, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE
(DELILAH SMITH, AS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND TO DEVONTE SMITH, A MINOR,
DEFENDANT.)



Appeal from the Estate of Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Jeffrey Lawrence,Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Harris

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Cunningham and Justice Connors concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

In this appeal we are called upon to determine whether defendant, the Chicago Board of Education (Board), is immune under section 4-102 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) (745 ILCS 10/4-102 (West 2008)) from claims of willful and wanton misconduct and negligent acts that allegedly caused injuries and the death of plaintiff, Emily Green's, decedent. We conclude that the Board is immune. For the following reasons we affirm the circuit court's dismissal of Green's second amended complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 735 ILCS 5/2--619 (West 2008).

JURISDICTION

The circuit court dismissed counts I, II, III and IV of Green's second amended complaint pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2008)) on August 21, 2009.*fn1

The circuit court made an express written finding stating there is no reason to delay enforcement or appeal of its order pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a). Ill. S. Ct. R. 304(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). On September 2, 2009, Green filed her notice of appeal. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rules 303 and 304(a) governing appeals from final judgments entered below. Ill. S. Ct. R. 303 (eff. May 30, 2008); R. 304(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).

BACKGROUND

The Board owns and operates the Chicago Public Schools, including Crane Technical High School (Crane Tech). In March of 2008, decedent, a student at Crane Tech, was fatally shot by another Crane Tech student, Devonte Smith. In March 2009, Green was appointed the special administrator of decedent's estate.*fn2 On April 14, 2009, Green filed her six-count second amended complaint seeking damages under the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/2.1(West 2008)) and the Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6 (West 2008)) against defendants, the Board and Delilah Smith, as mother and next friend to Devonte Smith.

In her second amended complaint, Green alleged the Board knew Devonte Smith had a reputation for violence and trouble making. Green further alleged that the Board knew "of the violent nature" of the school and the neighborhood. Additionally, Green alleged that the Board knew that tension existed between students from different neighborhoods and that the school was located in a territory disputed by rival gangs. Green alleged the Board increased security at Crane Tech the week prior to the incident due to increased fighting between the students at the school and that, in the past, the Board had confiscated weapons, including guns, from Crane Tech students found possessing the weapons on school property. Green alleged that in order to combat foreseeable criminal activity in the school, the Board had increased security, employed metal detectors, and made security cameras accessible to the Chicago Police Department.

In her second amended complaint, Green described the incident, stating, "at approximately 3:05 p.m., after the dismissal bell rang, students were required to leave the school into a condition on the premises that exposed those students to unnecessary dangers." Waiting outside the school "were dozens of people armed with golf clubs and other weapons." Thereafter, violent altercations occurred on school property. In one of those altercations, Devonte Smith fatally shot decedent.

In count I of her second amended complaint, Green sought damages under the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/2.1 (West 2008)), alleging the Board had a special relationship with the decedent and that it had a duty to protect the decedent from reasonably foreseeable criminal activity of third parties and to guard against those criminal activities. Green stated that the Board breached its duty to decedent when it willfully and wantonly failed to provide adequate security; remove certain individuals from the premises; timely notify the police of the altercation; and provide safe ingress and egress to its students on its premises. Green also alleges that the Board wilfully and wantonly failed, by omission, to perform security measures it had voluntarily undertaken to perform; permitted conditions of the premises to exist to either cause or contribute to the incident; failed to disperse the armed attackers on and around the school; and permitted the students to be dismissed from school when armed attackers were present on and around school property. Green alleged that the willful and wanton actions of the Board were both the direct and proximate cause of decedent's death. In count II of her second amended complaint, Green re-alleged the willful and wanton acts by the Board, and sought damages under the Survival Act. 755 ILCS 5/27-6 (West 2008).

In count III of her second amended complaint, Green sought damages for negligence under the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/2.1 (West 2008)), alleging the Board breached its special duty to the decedent. Specifically, Green alleged the Board acted negligently by failing to provide adequate security, even though the Board knew of the violent nature of the school and surrounding area; remove individuals that were involved in the altercation; timely notify the police of the altercation; provide safe ingress and egress to its students; and provide security services it voluntarily undertook to perform. She also alleged that the Board acted negligently by failing, by omission, to perform security measures it voluntarily undertook to perform; permitting the conditions of the school to exist such that they contributed to the incident; ...


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