PAMELA K. SHELTON, a/k/a, Pamela K. Baker, Plaintiff-Appellant,
OSF SAINT FRANCIS MEDICAL CENTER, a/k/a OSF Healthcare Systems, an Illinois Non-for-Profit Corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois, Circuit No. 09-L-283 Honorable David J. Dubicki, Judge, Presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holdridge and McDade concurred in the judgment and opinion.
WRIGHT PRESIDING JUSTICE
¶ 1 Plaintiff, Pamela K. Shelton, also known as Pamela K. Baker, appeals the trial court's order awarding summary judgment in favor of defendant, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center (OSF). On appeal, plaintiff argues the allegations contained in her verified amended complaint did not constitute judicial admissions. We affirm.
¶ 2 FACTS
¶ 3 On October 4, 2007, plaintiff injured her right knee while performing employment duties as a registered nurse working in the rehabilitation unit of OSF. From the date of injury, October 4, 2007, until January 3, 2008, the date of plaintiff's surgery to repair her knee, plaintiff continued to work for OSF in the restricted worker program. However, plaintiff was unable to work while she recovered from her surgery.
¶ 4 During this short absence from employment, plaintiff applied for and received workers' compensation. On March 10, 2008, plaintiff's physicians issued orders allowing plaintiff to return to light duty, and she subsequently returned to the restricted worker program because her physician restricted her from performing duties that might require her to lift more than 20 pounds following surgery. In May 2008, plaintiff reached "maximum medical improvement, " but she still had a 20-pound weight restriction in place.
¶ 5 On or about May 12, 2008, Jackie Fugitt, a human resources representative with OSF, advised plaintiff she should begin searching for a new position at the hospital or she would be terminated from employment within 30 days. Fugitt explained in her deposition that plaintiff's situation was Fugitt's first workers' compensation case. She also admitted her statement that plaintiff would be terminated after 30 days was inaccurate. Fugitt stated her error resulted from her misunderstanding of a directive Fugitt received from Lisa Stahlberg, a legal advisor with OSF.
¶ 6 According to Fugitt, Stahlberg instructed Fugitt to assist plaintiff with her job search over the next 30 days. Fugitt mistakenly interpreted this statement to mean plaintiff would be terminated from her current position if plaintiff she did not secure a new job assignment within the next 30 days. According to Fugitt, the "thirty-day time reference has been for employees that for various reasons can no longer perform in their current position, so [OSF] give[s] them thirty days to apply for positions and interview in hopes of being offered another one.”
¶ 7 Although plaintiff interviewed for several different positions at OSF during the 30-day time frame, she did not receive any employment offers following those interviews. On June 2, 2008, plaintiff received a letter from Fugitt indicating plaintiff's employment with OSF would terminate on Wednesday, June 18, 2008. On June 17, 2008, plaintiff called Fugitt and left a message asking her where she should return her employee items, including her employee identification badge.
¶ 8 On Friday, June 20, 2008, Cindi Hoggard, another human resources representative with OSF who was acting for Fugitt while Fugitt was on vacation, called plaintiff on that date and left a phone message for plaintiff informing her that her employment with OSF was not terminated. Hoggard explained in her deposition that it was her understanding OSF "did not terminate employees after thirty days if they were a Workman's Comp case." Hoggard left a message for plaintiff to return to work on Monday, June 23, 2008, in the restricted worker program.
¶ 9 Plaintiff returned Hoggard's phone call on Monday, June 23, 2008, and left her a voice message that plaintiff could not return to work at OSF immediately because she had an interview arranged within OSF and another interview arranged with an organization outside OSF. In addition, plaintiff claimed that, after she moved to Yorkville approximately a week after her alleged termination, she asked Hoggard to find her a position at an OSF-affiliated hospital located closer to Yorkville. 
¶ 10 On June 27, 2008, plaintiff sent OSF's human resources department a letter requesting clarification on her employment status. In that letter, she stated she was "terminated, " and she asserted that OSF would have to honor that termination.
¶ 11 On July 16, 2008, Timothy J. Newlin, an attorney working for OSF, wrote a letter to Art Kingery, plaintiff's ...