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Gallarneau v. Calvary Chapel of Lake Villa, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

June 27, 2013

BRITTANY GALLARNEAU, a Minor, by Her Father and Next Friend, Hugh Gallarneau, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CALVARY CHAPEL OF LAKE VILLA, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 10-L-1183 Honorable Christopher C. Starck, Judge, Presiding.

JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Burke and Justice Hutchinson concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

McLAREN JUSTICE

¶ 1 Plaintiff, Brittany Gallarneau, by her father and next friend, Hugh Gallarneau, appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant, Calvary Chapel of Lake Villa, Inc. (Calvary). We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On May 20, 2009, Brittany was attending the Calvary Kids Club (CKC), a program sponsored by Calvary that provided "teachings and activities for children" on Wednesday evenings. May 20 was the last meeting before summer, and CKC held an end-of-the-year party. The activities included a relay race, outside on church property, in which the contestants were to run backward. While running in that race, Brittany fell backwards and broke both of her arms.

¶ 4 Brittany filed a one-count complaint, seeking damages in excess of $50, 000, alleging that Calvary breached its duty "to provide and supervise the minor plaintiff in said activities in a reasonably safe and secure setting." Calvary eventually filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that it was immune to suits alleging ordinary negligence, pursuant to section 24-24 of the School Code (Code) (105 ILCS 5/24-24 (West 2008)). After briefing and oral argument, the trial court found that CKC was a school under section 24-24 of the Code and entered summary judgment in favor of Calvary. This timely appeal followed.

¶ 5 II. ANALYSIS

¶ 6 Brittany contends that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Calvary. Summary judgment is proper when the pleadings, admissions, depositions, and affidavits on file, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. G.I.S. Venture v. Novak, 388 Ill.App.3d 184, 187 (2009). The applicability and interpretation of legislation present questions of law that are amenable to resolution through summary judgment. Id. We review de novo the meaning and effect of a statutory provision, as well as a trial court's grant or denial of summary judgment. Id.

¶ 7 Section 24-24 of the Code provides in relevant part:

"Subject to the limitations of all policies established or adopted under Section 14-8.05, teachers, other certified educational employees, and any other person, whether or not a certificated employee, providing a related service for or with respect to a student shall maintain discipline in the schools, including school grounds which are owned or leased by the board and used for school purposes and activities. In all matters relating to the discipline in and conduct of the schools and the school children, they stand in the relation of parents and guardians to the pupils. This relationship shall extend to all activities connected with the school program, including all athletic and extracurricular programs, and may be exercised at any time for the safety and supervision of the pupils in the absence of their parents or guardians." 105 ILCS 5/24-24 (West 2008).

In both disciplinary and nondisciplinary matters in schools, teachers and certified and noncertified personnel stand in the relation of parents and guardians to the students. Kobylanski v. Chicago Board of Education, 63 Ill.2d 165, 171-72 (1976).[1] Since a parent is not liable for injuries to his child absent willful and wanton conduct, section 24-24 makes teachers and other covered personnel immune from liability for ordinary negligence. See id. at 173; Courson v. Danville School District No. 118, 301 Ill.App.3d 752, 755 (1998). This immunity is not expressly provided by section 24-24; it arises indirectly from the in loco parentis relationship of teachers and other educational employees with students. Henrich v. Libertyville High School, 289 Ill.App.3d 809, 815 (1997). For the immunity to apply, a teacher-student relationship must give rise to the conduct that is the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury. Jastram v. Lake Villa School District 41, 192 Ill.App.3d 599, 603 (1989). Vicarious immunity is also bestowed upon the institution if the cause of action is predicated on the ordinary negligence of an employee who has the statutory immunity. See Knapp v. Hill, 276 Ill.App.3d 376, 383 (1995); Jastram, 192 Ill.App.3d at 603.

¶ 8 "The term 'school' is a generic one which has numerous meanings." Possekel v. O'Donnell, 51 Ill.App.3d 313, 315 (1977). After providing a national review of judicial definitions (id. at 315-16), the Prossekel court found that the "common denominator" of the definitions was "that the place be one where instruction is given, generally to the young." Id. at 316. Illinois courts have found that an institution constitutes a school: at a daycare program affiliated with a private, parochial school system owned and operated by a church (Hilgendorf v. First Baptist Church, 157 Ill.App.3d 428 (1987)); where religious instruction was given to children twice a week in rooms on the upper floors of a church building (City of Chicago v. Bethlehem Healing Temple Church, 93 Ill.App.2d 303 (1968)); and even in a private home where a child was receiving home-schooling (People v. Levisen, 404 Ill. 574 (1950)). Here, it is uncontested that Calvary provided religious instruction on Wednesday evenings through CKC. As such, CKC can be found to be a "school" under the generic Prossekel definition.

¶ 9 However, a mere generic finding that an institution is a "school, " based on the fact that instruction is given to the young, is not sufficient to invoke the immunity extended under section 24-24 of the Code; the "sole question is not whether the defendant's establishment constituted a school, but whether it comes within the scope of section 24-24." Prossekel, 51 Ill.App.3d at 318. For example, the school that was found to exist on the upper floors of the church in Bethlehem Healing Temple Church was found to exist for purposes of determining whether a city ordinance requiring the installation of an automatic sprinkler system in schools applied.[2] See Bethlehem Healing Temple Church, 93 Ill.App.2d at 306. The question at issue was "the legal status of the defendant's four-story building as either a Type 1 School, and hence within the ordinance, or a church, and hence outside the terms of the ordinance." Id. at 308. Pursuant to the ordinance, which the parties agreed was "enacted and enforced in an effort to prevent a tragic fire such as the one at Queen of Angels Parochial School" (id. at 307), Type 1 schools included "day nursery schools, kindergarten schools, elementary schools, high schools and other similar occupancies." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id. at 306. The court's finding that Bethlehem Church (through its religious ...


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