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Kristen Kaufmann v. Roger A. Schroeder

February 25, 2011

KRISTEN KAUFMANN,
APPELLANT,
v.
ROGER A. SCHROEDER, M.D., ET AL. (JERSEY COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, APPELLEE).



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

Opinion

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

Justice Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Freeman specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justices Thomas and Karmeier.

Justice Garman dissented, with opinion, joined by Chief JusticeKilbride.

OPINION

The single issue in this case is whether claims brought by plaintiff, Kristen Kaufmann (Kaufmann), against Jersey Community Hospital (JCH) are time-barred. Kaufmann initially filed suit against Dr. Roger A. Schroeder (Schroeder) and JCH on December 31, 2007, to recover for injuries suffered during a hospitalization in January 2006. The circuit court of Jersey County found that the one-year limitation period found in section 8--101(a) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act or Act) (745 ILCS 10/8--101(b) (West 2006)) applied with respect to claims brought against JCH. Because Kaufmann's suit was filed more than one year from the date of her alleged injuries, the circuit court dismissed the claims against JCH as time-barred.

Kaufmann appealed contending that her complaint was timely filed with respect to JCH because she is seeking recovery for injuries "arising out of patient care" and, thus, the two-year statute of limitations in section 8--101(b) of the Tort Immunity Act applies. The appellate court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal order. 396 Ill. App. 3d 729. For reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

BACKGROUND

On December 31, 2007, Kaufmann filed an initial two-count complaint against Schroeder and JCH. She amended the complaint on June 23, 2008. In her amended complaint, consisting of 10 counts, Kaufmann alleged that she had been hospitalized at JCH in January 2006 by Dr. Schroeder, who had been her obstetrician-gynecologist since 2004. Kaufmann further alleged that during her hospitalization she was sedated by Dr. Schroeder for "an unnecessary exam and/or procedure which did not require sedation" and that, after she was sedated, Dr. Schroeder committed a deviant act of a sexual nature on her. Specifically, Kaufmann claimed that, as she began to regain consciousness after being sedated, she became aware that Dr. Schroeder was licking her breasts.

As to JCH, Kaufmann's complaint contained allegations that JCH had been aware that Dr. Schroeder had sexually attacked other patients yet continued to permit him to examine female patients without having a nurse or other staff member present. Kaufmann also alleged that she notified the Illinois State Police of the incident and the police instructed her to refrain from filing suit against Dr. Schroeder until the police were able to collect certain unspecified evidence regarding Dr. Schroeder's sexual assault of Kaufmann and other patients.*fn1

Counts I through III of the amended complaint were brought against Dr. Schroeder and alleged battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. Counts IV through X of the amended complaint were brought against JCH and alleged negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, "negligence (willful and wanton)," intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and vicarious liability for the misconduct of Dr. Schroeder as alleged in counts I through III.

On July 3, 2008, JCH moved for the dismissal of Kaufmann's amended complaint, alleging that it was time-barred. The hospital argued that, because it is a municipal corporation, the governing statute of limitations is section 8--101(a) of the Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/8--101(a) (West 2006)). That provision requires that any suit brought against a local governmental entity be commenced within one year of the date the injury was received or the cause of action accrued. Because Kaufmann filed suit more than one year from the date the injury was received, JCH contended that the cause of action should be dismissed.

Kaufmann disagreed. She argued that because her injuries arose out of patient care, the two-year statute of limitations in section 8--101(b) of the Act (745 ILCS 10/8--101(b) (West 2006)) applied and, thus, her complaint was timely.

The circuit court granted the hospital's motion and dismissed counts IV through X of Kaufmann's complaint. Kaufmann sought reconsideration. However, after a hearing, the circuit court denied plaintiff's motion and expressly held, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(a), that there was no just reason to delay appeal. Ill. S. Ct.R. 304(a) (eff. Jan. 1, 2006).

Plaintiff appealed and on December 8, 2009, the appellate court filed an opinion affirming the circuit court's dismissal of Kaufmann's complaint. 396 Ill. App. 3d 729. A majority of the court held that the one-year limitations period applied because "[p]laintiff's injuries arose from Schroeder's act of sexual gratification, which was clearly separate from her patient care." 396 Ill. App. 3d at 742. Presiding Justice Myerscough dissented. She agreed with plaintiff that the two-year statute of limitations applied. In her view plaintiff's injuries arose out of patient care because, "This is not a case of sexual assault that just happened to occur in a medical setting, this is a case of sexual assault that is inextricable from plaintiff's medical care."

We granted plaintiff's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).

ANALYSIS

As noted earlier, the single issue before this court is whether, with regard to JCH, Kaufmann's complaint was timely filed. JCH is a municipal corporation and, as such, the time period in which a claim may be brought against it is limited by the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. Section 8--101 of the Act, which sets forth the limitation periods, provides in subsection (a):

"No civil action other than an action described in subsection

(b) 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." (Emphasis added.) 745 ILCS 10/8--101(a) (West 2006).

The exception referred to in subsection (a) and contained in subsection (b) is as follows:

"No action for damages for injury or death against any local public entity or public employee, whether based upon tort, or breach of contract, or otherwise, arising out of patient care shall be brought more than 2 years after the date on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known, or received notice in writing of the existence of the injury or death for which damages are sought in the action, whichever of those dates occurs first, but in no event shall such an action be brought more than 4 years after the date on which occurred the act ...


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