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Andre Johnson v. the Salvation Army

August 12, 2011

ANDRE JOHNSON,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE SALVATION ARMY,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00CR10872 The Honorable Jennifer Duncan-Brice, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith

PRESIDING JUSTICE FITZGERALD SMITH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Joseph Gordon and Howse concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Plaintiff Andre Johnson appeals from an order of the circuit court granting summary judgment against him and in favor of defendant the Salvation Army.*fn1 Plaintiff was injured in a single-car crash while a passenger in a Salvation Army-owned vehicle being driven by a Salvation Army employee. Plaintiff filed this action against defendant alleging that its employee, Dennis Rushing, negligently drove a truck causing plaintiff's injuries. Defendant filed an affirmative defense alleging that plaintiff's claims are barred because he signed an exculpatory agreement, contained in a beneficiary's admittance statement, when he entered the Salvation army's adult rehabilitation program, agreeing to hold defendant free and harmless from any and all liability if he were injured while a beneficiary of the Salvation Army's drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on defendant's affirmative defense. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant and against plaintiff. For the following reasons, we affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 The record reveals the following pertinent facts and procedural history. In August 2007, Johnson sought treatment from the Salvation Army adult rehabilitation program in Chicago and was enrolled as a beneficiary in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at the time of the injury. The rehabilitation program is run by the Salvation Army, a religious and charitable organization that provides social services to the disadvantaged, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation. The rehabilitation center (Center) is "dedicated solely to the social and physical rehabilitation and the spiritual regeneration of those persons who are in need of such assistance." The program lasts 12 months and is designed to "move an individual from dependency on drug and alcohol use to a point at which he can hold gainful employment on the outside." There are three components to the program: drug/alcohol education, spiritual development, and work therapy. The work therapy portion of the program consists of a 40-hour per-week work therapy assignment.

¶ 4 To become a beneficiary of the program, an individual must complete an application and intake process during which a Salvation Army employee meets with the beneficiary. Once accepted into the program, the beneficiary lives at the Salvation Army Center located at 506 North Des Plaines Street, and is assigned certain job responsibilities which equate to a 40-hour work week. The beneficiaries are assigned a room to live in, fed three meals per day, and given a $7-per-week "gratuity" for the purchase of discretionary items.

¶ 5 Plaintiff applied to the rehabilitation program at 506 North Des Plaines Street in August 2007. He had previously participated in the same program at the adult rehabilitation center located at 2358 North Clybourn in Chicago. He chose to apply to the program at North Des Plaines in 2007 instead of the program at North Clybourn because he heard that the North Des Plaines program was larger and had more opportunities.

¶ 6 Plaintiff voluntarily reentered defendant's program in 2007 because he "wanted the miracle." According to his deposition, he was "healed" when he participated in the program on North Clybourn in 2004, and he "wanted the miracle" again. Plaintiff has participated in other rehabilitation programs, including those offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs (hereafter VA).

¶ 7 Robert St. Julien completed the intake process for plaintiff and admitted plaintiff into the rehabilitation program in 2007. As part of the intake process, St. Julien read the beneficiary's admittance statement out loud to plaintiff prior to plaintiff signing the form in St. Julien's presence. The beneficiary's admittance statement in question reads as follows:

"THE SALVATION ARMY ADULT REHABILITATION CENTER BENEFICIARY'S ADMITTANCE STATEMENT

I recognize my need for assistance and hereby apply for admission to the Adult Rehabilitation Center. I understand that The Salvation Army is a religious and charitable organization and that this Adult Rehabilitation Center is dedicated solely to the social and physical rehabilitation and the spiritual regeneration of those persons who are in need of such assistance.

I further understand that under no circumstances can this Center be under any obligation to me; and that I am a beneficiary and not an employee of this Center.

I understand that my admission and continued residence is dependent upon my needing such assistance and my willingness to help myself and others so situated, including the vountary performance of such duties as may be assigned to me.

I agree for myself, my heirs or assigns, that should any accident occur involving personal injury to myself or loss or damage to my properly during my residence in this Center, to hold The Salvation Army free and harmless from any and all liability in connection therewith.

Any personal property left upon my departure from this Center and not claimed within thirty days by me or by my authorized representative shall become the property of The Salvation Army to dispose of to the best interests of the Center.

I further agree to attend religious services in the chapel regularly as arranged by the Administrator.

I agree not to enter or remain in this building under the influence of intoxicants or enter the building with such in my possession."

The statement was signed and dated by plaintiff ...


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