from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 12L245, Honorable
Peter C. Cavanagh, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Holder White and Appleton concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff, Donna Cochran, brought a cause of action against
defendant, Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., alleging
interference with her right to possession of the remains of
her deceased son, Walter Andrew Cochran (decedent). The trial
court granted defendant's motion to dismiss
plaintiff's complaint, and she appeals. We reverse and
remand for further proceedings.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 The following facts are undisputed. In September 2010, the
decedent, then age 39, died at his home in Moultrie County,
Illinois. On September 14, 2010, his body was transported to
the Moultrie County morgue and then to Memorial Medical
Center (Memorial) in Springfield, Illinois, for an autopsy.
On September 16, 2010, representatives of Butler Funeral Home
(Butler) arrived at Memorial's morgue to obtain the
remains of an individual named William Carroll. However,
rather than obtaining Carroll's remains, Butler was
mistakenly provided with decedent's remains.
Decedent's body was then cremated by Butler.
4 In September 2013, plaintiff, individually and as the
independent administrator of decedent's estate, filed a
complaint against Memorial, Butler, and defendant-an entity
that contracted with Memorial to provide certain security
services to the hospital. Plaintiff raised various claims
related to the wrongful cremation of decedent, including an
"interference with right to possession of decedent"
claim against defendant. In June 2015, plaintiff settled her
claims with Memorial and Butler.
5 Also in June 2015, plaintiff filed a third amended
complaint against defendant only. Again, she alleged
defendant wrongfully interfered with her right to possession
of the decedent's remains. Plaintiff alleged she was
decedent's mother and next of kin, and she had the right
to possession of her son's body to make an appropriate
disposition "by burial or otherwise." She asserted
defendant "had a duty not to interfere" with her
right to possession of her son's body but violated that
duty by failing to follow Memorial's rules and policies
regarding the care and handling of deceased individuals.
6 Specifically, plaintiff alleged defendant's employees
"were responsible for receiv- ing, tracking, and
releasing bodies processed by [Memorial's] morgue"
and had to "conform their conduct with written
documents, entitled 'Security Policies.' " She
identified the relevant policies as follows:
"12. At all relevant times, Security Policies #1014 and
#1014-2, titled 'Receiving/Releasing Deceased
Persons' were in effect and required that 'The
Security officer must also make sure that an identification
tag is left visible with/on the body.'
19. At all relevant times, Paragraph 5 of Security Policy
#1014-2 state[d] that 'A Coroner's Case cannot be
released to a funeral home until verbal confirmation to do so
has been received from the Memorial Pathologists and the
Coroner's office.' ***
21. At all relevant times, Paragraph 5 of Security Policy
#1014 state[d] that 'Upon release of a deceased person to
a funeral home a Security officer must be present, or must
verify the deceased person with the funeral home and with the
Nursing Service Print-out before removal from Memorial can
take place. Also, before removal the Nursing Service
Print-out must be signed by both the Security officer and the
funeral home representative. The time and date of pick-up
must also be recorded.' "
Plaintiff also alleged defendant's employees "were
responsible for maintaining a log book identifying the bodies
in the morgue and their location."
7 According to plaintiff, defendant's employees received
decedent's body from the Moultrie County Coroner's
office on September 14, 2010, and placed his body in
Memorial's morgue. She alleged defendant's employees
"did not place an identification tag on [decedent's]
body to ensure that a tag was left visible with/on the body
when it was received at [Memorial]." Decedent's body
was then placed within a Ziegler case, a case used for
severely decomposed bodies. Plaintiff alleged defendant's
employees failed to place an identification tag on either the
Ziegler case containing decedent's body or on the body of
decedent. Additionally, she asserted defendant's
employees "did not accurately record the location of
[decedent's] body in the morgue log book and instead
recorded that the body of decedent William Carroll was
located in the Ziegler case."
8 Plaintiff also alleged that on September 16, 2010,
defendant's employee's mistak- enly transferred
possession of decedent's body to Butler and told
Butler's representatives that the body transferred was
that of William Carroll. She asserted defendant's
employees (1) did not have verbal confirmation to release
decedent's body to a funeral home; (2) did not verify the
identity of the deceased person with Butler or on the
"Nursing Service Print-out, " sign the
"Nursing Service Print-out, " or obtain the
signature of a Butler representative on the "Nursing
Service Print-out"; (3) relied on an erroneous morgue
log book entry to determine the identity of the body in the
Ziegler case and did not confirm the identity by checking for
an identification tag on the body prior to releasing the body
to Butler; and (4) did not attempt to make a visual
identification of the body in the Ziegler case to ensure that
it matched the description of William Carroll.
9 Plaintiff alleged defendant breached its duty not to
interfere with her possession of decedent's body through
the following acts or omissions:
"a. Failed to conform with the provisions of written
security policies established by Memorial *** designed to
prevent misidentification of bodies in its morgue;
b. Failed to keep an accurate morgue log book that correctly
stated the lo- cation and identity of bodies in the Memorial
c. Violated both hospital policy and industry standards by
releasing the incorrect body to representatives of a funeral
d. Violated both hospital policy and industry standards by
releasing a body that lacked an identification tag to a
e. Released a body to representatives of a funeral home when
it knew or should have known the body in its possession did
not match the description of the body to be transported;
f. Relied entirely on an erroneous log book entry to confirm
the identity of a body in the morgue in contradiction with
security policies and industry standards.
g. Was otherwise careless and/or reckless in its care and
handling of [d]ecedent ***."
plaintiff asserted that as a proximate result of
defendant's "wrongful acts and/or omissions"
she experienced severe emotional distress and mental
suffering, suffered embarrassment and humiliation, and
suffered financial loss.
10 In July 2015, defendant filed a combined motion to dismiss
plaintiff's third amended complaint pursuant to section
2-619.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS
5/2-619.1 (West 2014)), seeking dismissal of the complaint
pursuant to both section 2-615 and section 2-619 of the Code
(735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2014)). It argued dismissal
was warranted under section 2-615 because plaintiff (1)
failed to allege sufficient facts to show a duty owed by
defendant; (2) was required, but failed, to plead sufficient
facts to demonstrate willful and wanton conduct by defendant;
(3) failed to plead sufficient facts to show that
defendant's conduct was a proximate cause of her claimed
damages; and (4) failed to plead sufficient facts to support
a claim for emotional damages.
11 Defendant argued dismissal of plaintiff's third
amended complaint was warranted under section 2-619 because
plaintiff "ignore[d] both the facts known to her and her
counsel at the time of the filing of her pleading in
violation of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137 [(eff. July 1,
2013)] and the pleading requirements of a cause of action for
interference with the right to possession of the body of a
decedent under Illinois law." It maintained that, as a
result, plaintiff "failed to plead a cause of action for
interference with the right to possess the body of the
[d]ecedent" and "[t]he facts plead [sic]
and the facts known to *** [p]laintiff at the time of