The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman
JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Plaintiffs, Brandon Wilson and Daphne Wilson, brought an action for medical malpractice in the circuit court of Du Page County against defendant Edward Hospital, two doctors and their practice groups, and a nurse for injuries allegedly caused to Brandon during surgery to repair a broken leg. Pertinent to this appeal, plaintiffs alleged that the two doctors were agents of the hospital. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the hospital on the ground that the two doctors were not the hospital's actual agents. The court found a question of fact to exist as to whether the doctors were the hospital's apparent agents. Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their complaint. Subsequently, they refiled their complaint, alleging that the doctors were the hospital's apparent agents. The hospital moved to dismiss on the grounds that the trial court's earlier finding that the doctors were not the hospital's actual agents was a final judgment on the merits and that res judicata therefore barred the refiled action. The trial court denied the motion, but certified a question to the appellate court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994) on the issue of whether actual agency and apparent agency are separate claims for purposes of res judicata and the prohibition against claim-splitting, thereby barring the refiling of the complaint based on apparent agency. The appellate court answered the certified question in the affirmative. 2011 IL App (2d) 110085-U. This court granted plaintiffs leave to appeal. Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).
¶ 3 In 2003, plaintiff Brandon Wilson, who was then a minor, broke his right femur in an automobile accident. He was taken to defendant Edward Hospital, where surgery was performed to repair the fractured bone. During surgery, Brandon aspirated vomit into his lungs, causing cardiac arrest which resulted in an anoxic brain injury.
¶ 4 In 2004, Brandon and his mother, Daphne, filed a complaint for medical malpractice. Their complaint alleged that the surgery was not of an emergency nature and that the doctors were negligent in failing to provide for a sufficient period of fasting prior to performing surgery on Brandon. Plaintiffs alleged that all persons working at the hospital were employees and/or agents of the hospital. In a single count of their second amended complaint, plaintiffs alleged that each of the defendant doctors was an "agent in law or in fact" of the hospital and that the hospital was liable for the wrongful acts and omissions of the doctors. The hospital filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that the doctors were neither its actual nor its apparent agents. The trial court granted partial summary judgment on the ground that the doctors were not actual agents of the hospital. The court found that a question of fact existed as to whether the doctors were the apparent agents of the hospital. In 2009, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their complaint pursuant to section 2-1009 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1009 (West 2008)). One year later, plaintiffs refiled their action. In their third amended complaint, they alleged, as to the hospital, that both doctors acted as apparent agents of the hospital. The hospital moved to dismiss, citing this court's decision in Hudson v. City of Chicago, 228 Ill. 2d 462 (2008). The hospital argued that plaintiffs' refiled action was barred by res judicata because (1) a final judgment on the merits was rendered on plaintiffs' actual agency claim; (2) the causes of action against the hospital pleaded in the original and refiled actions are identical; and (3) there is an identity of parties.
Thus, according to the hospital, since res judicata bars every matter that might have been raised or determined in the first action, plaintiffs' apparent agency claims were barred.
¶ 5 The trial court denied the hospital's motion to dismiss but granted its motion for an order certifying the following question of law under Rule 308:
"Are actual agency and apparent agency separate claims for purposes of the res judicata doctrine and the prohibition against claim-splitting set forth by the Supreme Court in Hudson v. City of Chicago, 228 Ill. 2d 462 (2008) and Rein v. David A. Noyes & Co., 172 Ill. 2d 325 (1996), so that a summary judgment entered on the actual agency claims in plaintiff's initial suit bars plaintiff's apparent agency claims in this refiled suit, even in the face of a ruling that there is a question of fact as to the apparent agency claims?"
¶ 6 The appellate court answered the certified question in the affirmative, holding that actual agency and apparent agency are separate claims subject to the bar of res judicata and the prohibition against claim-splitting. In doing so, the appellate court followed Rein and Hudson and an appellate decision, Williams v. Ingalls Memorial Hospital, 408 Ill. App. 3d 360 (2011). The appellate court here rejected plaintiffs' argument that they had only a single claim for negligence based upon vicarious liability that was supported in different ways by allegations of actual agency and apparent agency. It also rejected their argument that the trial court's determination that as a matter of law, the doctors were not the actual agents of the hospital, did not affect the unitary nature of the negligence claim. 2011 IL App (2d) 110085-U.
¶ 8 A certified question under Rule 308 presents a question of law, which we review de novo. Solon v. Midwest Medical Records Ass'n, 236 Ill. 2d 433, 439 (2010).
¶ 9 The issue before us is whether res judicata and the prohibition against claim-splitting bar plaintiffs' refiled action due to the trial court's order granting partial summary judgment in the first action on plaintiffs' allegation that the defendant doctors were actual agents of the hospital. The doctrine of res judicata provides that a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction acts as an absolute bar to a subsequent action between the same parties or their privies involving the same claim, demand, or cause of action. The bar extends not only to all matters that were actually decided but also to those matters that could have been decided in the prior action. Nowak v. St. Rita High School, 197 Ill. 2d 381, 389 (2001); River Park, Inc. v. City of Highland Park, 184 Ill. 2d 290, 302 (1998). Three requirements must be met for res ...