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Manago v. County of Cook

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

August 30, 2013

AKEEM MANAGO, a Minor by His Mother and Next Friend, APRIL PRITCHETT, Plaintiff and Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
THE COUNTY OF COOK, Respondent-Appellant Chicago Housing Authority, a Municipal Corporation, and H.J. Russell and Company, Defendants

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 08 L 13211 Honorable Thomas L. Hogan, Judge Presiding.

For APPELLANT: Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney of Cook County (Patrick T. Driscoll, Jr., Kent S. Ray, and James Beligratis, Assistant State's Attorneys, Of Counsel).

For APPELLEE: No brief filed by appellee.

JUSTICE REYES delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Lampkin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

REYES, JUSTICE

¶ 1 Respondent Cook County (County) appeals an order entered by the circuit court of Cook County striking, dismissing and extinguishing a hospital lien arising under the Health Care Services Lien Act (Act) (770 ILCS 23/1 et seq. (West 2004)) for services rendered to plaintiff Akeem Manago by the John H. Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County (Hospital). On appeal, the County contends the circuit court erred in extinguishing the lien, arguing: (1) it was not required to intervene in plaintiff's personal injury action against defendants Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and H.J. Russell and Company (Russell); (2) a hospital lien may be enforced against a minor; and (3) the hospital lien may attach to a judgment that does not include an award of damages for medical expenses. For the following reasons, we reverse the order of the circuit court and remand the case for further proceedings.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 This case arises out of injuries plaintiff suffered on August 5, 2005. The Hospital provided care and treatment to plaintiff for these injuries on various dates between August 6, 2005, through September 28, 2010. The Hospital filed a notice of lien against plaintiff for unpaid hospital bills on August 10, 2009. The enforceability of the lien against a judgment entered by the circuit court in plaintiff's underlying personal injury lawsuit is the subject of this appeal.

¶ 4 The record on appeal discloses the following facts. On November 26, 2008, plaintiff filed a three-count negligence complaint against the CHA, Russell and A.N.B. Elevator Services, Inc. (A.N.B.), through his mother and next friend, April Pritchett (Pritchett), seeking damages for personal injuries suffered in an elevator operated and controlled by Russell and A.N.B. on the CHA premises at 1520 West Hastings in Chicago on August 5, 2005.[1] Plaintiff alleged he was injured while an invitee on CHA premises. Plaintiff claimed the defendants carelessly and negligently failed to inspect and maintain the elevator, which was a direct and proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries.

¶ 5 On March 9, 2011, plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, a two-count negligence complaint against the CHA and Russell, which specifically alleges plaintiff was a minor age 14 on the date of his injuries. The second amended complaint again alleges defendants' general failure to inspect and maintain the elevator. The second amended complaint, however, alleges defendants failed to inspect the elevator to ensure persons, including the minor plaintiff, would not have access to the elevator roof. Plaintiff also alleges the CHA permitted an "attractive nuisance" to exist, placing minors at risk for harming themselves. Plaintiff further alleges defendants carelessly and negligently permitted him access to the elevator roof and that plaintiff was injured while the elevator was in motion.

¶ 6 The record sets forth a notice of lien dated August 10, 2009, mailed from the County to plaintiff's attorney by certified mail, stating the County was asserting a lien upon plaintiff's cause of action under the Act for medical and hospital services rendered to plaintiff after the August 5, 2005 incident. The return receipt for the notice of lien, addressed to the law office of plaintiff's attorney, was signed by "D. Pinto."

¶ 7 On December 7, 2011, following a bench trial the court held on plaintiff's personal injury action, commenced without a court reporter, the trial court issued an order with A.N.B. no longer listed as a party in the caption, which lists Akeem Manago "et al." as the plaintiff. The order indicates that following the presentation of the evidence, plaintiffs requested damages in the following amounts:

"April Pritchett – $79, 572.63 for the medical bills stipulated to by the parties; Akeem Manago – $704, 000 broken down in this fashion – scarring; 350, 000; past pain and suffering – $300, 000; and future loss of a normal life – $54, 000."[2]

Defendants requested they be found not liable or, in the alternative, plaintiff be found 50% responsible for his own injuries.

¶ 8 The court rendered the following findings: (1) that the CHA knew or should have known through its agents at Russell that minor residents could access the elevator roof while the elevator was in motion; (2) notwithstanding this actual or constructive notice, neither the CHA nor Russell inspected the elevator access doors to determine whether the doors were open and allowed passengers to gain access to the elevator roof; (3) plaintiff, while lawfully riding the elevator and after having been directed by Pritchett not to ride on the roof, climbed onto the roof on August 5, 2005, through one of the access panels; (4); plaintiff suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of becoming entangled in the elevator's operating mechanism; and (5) although the parties stipulated to the medical bills in the amount of $79, 572.63, plaintiffs adduced no testimony as to who was responsible for their payment.

¶ 9 The court also found plaintiff had established a prima facie case against defendants, but “Plaintiff April Pritchett" failed to do so, due to the lack of evidence presented by Pritchett establishing any expectation of having to pay the medical bills. The court awarded plaintiff: $250, 000 for past, present and future scarring he will be forced to endure for the next 54.1 years; $75, 000 for past, present and future pain and suffering; $75, 000 for past, present and future loss of a normal life. ...


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