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Jennifer Flores v. Manuel Santiago

March 11, 2013

JENNIFER FLORES,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MANUEL SANTIAGO,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 12 L 657 Honorable Jeffery Lawrence, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Delort

IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT

JUSTICE DELORT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Cunningham concurred in the judgment.

OPINION

¶ 1 The Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians since time immemorial, states that medical providers must abstain from sexual relations with their patients. Plaintiff, Jennifer Flores, visited defendant, Dr. Manuel Santiago, for treatment regarding an eye ailment. According to her, the visits entailed more than eye treatment because Dr. Santiago doped her with narcotics and then engaged in sexual acts with her. We hold that her amended complaint stated a valid cause of action and therefore reverse and remand the case for further proceedings.

¶ 2 On January 19, 2012, plaintiff sued the defendant and alleged that he violated section 10 of the Illinois Gender Violence Act (Act) (740 ILCS 82/10 (West 2010)) and committed battery upon her. On March 7, 2012, defendant filed a motion to dismiss under section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)), arguing that plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to show that defendant's alleged sexual contact with the plaintiff was without the plaintiff's consent. Defendant also argued that the alleged sexual contact was not of the type that the Act was intended to address. On April 30, 2012, the circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, but granted plaintiff leave to replead.

¶ 3 On May 25, 2012, plaintiff filed the amended complaint that is the subject of this appeal. Plaintiff repleaded counts alleging a violation of the Act and common law battery. Both counts contain common allegations of fact, which we take as true for the purpose of this appeal. Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill. 2d 422, 429 (2006).

¶ 4 The amended complaint alleges that defendant is a licensed physician doing business as the "Oak Park Eye Center" in Oak Park, Illinois. In approximately June 2011, plaintiff became a patient of defendant for treatment regarding her eyes. During June 2011 and thereafter, defendant would flirt, tease and play with the plaintiff during numerous checkups and regular evaluations. While plaintiff was a patient of defendant, they had sexual intercourse and oral sexual contact on a number of occasions. The sexual activity was not part of any standard medical examination, diagnosis or treatment for plaintiff's health problems.

¶ 5 The amended complaint also alleges that this sexual relationship constituted a misuse of defendant's authority, and that the doctor-patient relationship rendered plaintiff unable to consent to any sexual contact with the defendant. Medical literature allegedly indicates that many patients have feelings of dependency and transference toward their physicians that may continue long after the professional relationship ends. Defendant allegedly engaged in unethical conduct by exploiting the trust, knowledge, emotions or influence derived from the parties' professional relationship.

¶ 6 The amended complaint further alleges that on almost every occasion when sexual contact occurred, defendant provided plaintiff with illegal drugs, including marijuana, hashish and cocaine. On at least one occasion, defendant allegedly provided plaintiff with a full bottle of liquid cocaine hydrochloride. Defendant allegedly knew of plaintiff's weakness and susceptibility to drug use, which allowed him to take unfair advantage of her. Plaintiff allegedly developed or relapsed into a dependency and became psychologically controlled by the defendant. Plaintiff asserted that she was unable to consent to any sexual contact with the defendant as a result of being plied with illegal drugs.

¶ 7 The amended complaint asserts that the facts establish causes of action for a violation of section 10 of the Act and for common law battery.

¶ 8 On June 21, 2012, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint under section 2-615 of the Code. Defendant also submitted a memorandum of law arguing that: (1) the plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to show that the alleged sexual contact was without the plaintiff's consent; and (2) the alleged sexual contact was not of the type that the Act was intended to address. On August 21, 2012, after briefing, the circuit court entered an order granting defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal to this court on August 22, 2012.

¶ 9 ANALYSIS

ΒΆ 10 On appeal, plaintiff argues that the circuit court erred in dismissing her amended complaint pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code. "A section 2-615 motion to dismiss [citation] challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint based on defects apparent on its face." Marshall, 222 Ill. 2d at 429. "In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, we accept as true all well-pleaded facts and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from those facts," and we "construe the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Id. Illinois is a fact-pleading jurisdiction, and a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to bring a claim within a legally recognized cause of action. Id. at 429-30. However, "a cause of action should not be dismissed pursuant to section ...


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