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Doe v. Doe

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

November 10, 2016

JANE DOE I, Special Administrator of the Estate of Jane Doe II, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JOHN DOE I, as Parent and Guardian of John Doe II, a Minor; JANE DOE III, as Parent and Guardian of John Doe II, a Minor; JOHN DOE II, a Minor; JOHN DOE III, as Parent and Guardian of Jane Doe IV, a Minor; JANE DOE V, as Parent and Guardian of Jane Doe IV, a Minor; and JANE DOE IV, a Minor, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 2015 L 5725 Honorable William E. Gomolinski, Judge, Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cunningham and Delort concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HOFFMAN, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The plaintiff, Jane Doe I, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Jane Doe II, deceased, appeals from orders of the trial court: dismissing all six counts of her complaint predicated upon the alleged negligence of the defendants resulting in the suicide death of Jane Doe II; denying her motion to reconsider the dismissal of counts I, II and III; and denying her motion for leave to file an amended complaint. For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 The plaintiff filed the instant action against the defendants, John Doe I and Jane Doe III, as parents and guardians of John Doe II, a minor; John Doe II, a minor; John Doe III and Jane Doe V, as parents and guardians of Jane Doe IV, a minor; and Jane Doe IV, a minor, alleging negligence which resulted in the suicide death of Jane Doe II. The defendants, John Doe I, Jane Doe III and John Doe II moved, pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)), to dismiss counts I, II and III of the plaintiff's complaint. The trial court granted the motion and subsequently denied the plaintiff's motion to reconsider and for leave to file an amended complaint. The defendants, John Doe III, Jane Doe V and Jane Doe IV filed a motion pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code to dismiss counts IV, V and VI of the plaintiff's complaint. The trial court also granted that motion, and this appeal followed.

         ¶ 3 On June 10, 2013, Jane Doe II (decedent) committed suicide. The plaintiff filed the instant action alleging in her complaint that, over social media, John Doe II fraudulently expressed to the decedent his intention to commit suicide or inflict severe physical harm upon himself. She also alleged that Jane Doe IV, with full knowledge that John Doe II had no intention of committing suicide or inflicting severe physical harm upon himself, nevertheless communicated with the decedent over social media, expressing that it was John Doe II's intention to commit suicide or inflict severe physical harm upon himself. The plaintiff's complaint asserted that, based upon the negligent communications from John Doe II and Jane Doe IV and their failure to inform the decedent that John Doe II had no intention of committing suicide or inflicting severe physical harm upon himself, the decedent developed "severe physical, psychological, and emotional anguish and anxiety, precipitating her death by suicide." The plaintiff alleged that John Doe I and Jane Doe III, as parents and guardians of John Doe II, were negligent in failing to monitor any conversations that John Doe II was having over social media and in allowing their minor son to fraudulently express to the decedent his intention to commit suicide or inflict severe physical harm upon himself. As to John Doe III and Jane Doe V, the plaintiff alleged that, as parents and guardians of Jane Doe IV, they were negligent in failing to monitor any conversations that Jane Doe IV was having over social media and in allowing their minor daughter to fraudulently express to the decedent that John Doe II intended to commit suicide or inflict severe physical harm upon himself.

         ¶ 4 The defendants filed motions pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code seeking the dismissal of all six counts of the plaintiff's complaint, alleging that, inter alia, as a matter of law, the decedent's suicide was an independent intervening cause which broke the chain of causation between their alleged negligence and the decedent's death. The trial court granted the motions and dismissed all six counts of the complaint with prejudice and denied the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.

         ¶ 5 As the instant appeal comes to us following the dismissal of the plaintiff's claims pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code, our review is de novo. Kanerva v. Weems, 2014 IL 115811, ¶ 33. The question presented is whether the allegations of the plaintiff's complaint, when taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Id.

         ¶ 6 To state a cause of action for negligence, a plaintiff must plead facts which support a duty owed by the defendant, a breach of that duty, an injury to the plaintiff proximately caused by the breach, and damages. Boyd v. Travelers Insurance Co., 166 Ill.2d 188, 194-95 (1995). "[T]he general rule, applicable in negligence actions, [is] that the injured party's voluntary act of suicide is an independent intervening act which is unforeseeable as a matter of law, and which breaks the chain of causation from the tortfeasor's negligent conduct." Turcios v. DeBruler Co., 2015 IL 117962, ¶ 20. "This rule has been applied in wrongful death actions based on conduct by the defendant amounting to negligence, provided [that] the defendant was under no duty to decedent to prevent the suicide." Id.

         ¶ 7 The "suicide rule, " as it has come to be known, is based on principles of proximate cause. In actions for negligence and intentional torts alike, the injury suffered by a plaintiff must be the natural consequence, not merely a remote consequence, of the defendant's act before there can be a recovery in tort. Id. ¶ 27 (citing Martin v. Heinold Commodities, Inc., 163 Ill.2d 33, 58-59 (1994)).

         ¶ 8 In urging reversal of the trial court's orders dismissing all six counts of her complaint, the plaintiff argues that she pled facts supporting all of the elements necessary to sustain negligence claims against the minor defendants and negligent supervision claims against their parents. We disagree.

         ¶ 9 Contrary to the plaintiff's assertions, we find no allegations in her complaint which support the conclusory assertion appearing in each count that the decedent's death "was a foreseeable result of the alleged negligence." Although in ruling on a section 2-615 motion to dismiss the court must accept as true all well-pled facts contained in the complaint under attack, the court does not accept as true conclusions of fact or law that are not supported by allegations of fact upon which the conclusions rest. Jarvis v. South Oak Dodge, Inc., 201 Ill.2d 81, 86 (2002).

         ¶ 10 As our supreme court held in Turcios, when a plaintiff seeks to recover damages predicated upon a decedent's suicide, allegedly brought about through the acts of the defendant, "the plaintiff must do more than plead facts which, if proven, would establish that the defendant's conduct was a cause in fact of the suicide." Turcios, 2015 IL 1179623, ¶ 40. "[A] plaintiff must plead facts demonstrating that the suicide was foreseeable, i.e., that it was a likely result of the defendant's conduct." Id.

         ¶ 11 Here, there are no factual allegations in any of the counts contained in the plaintiff's complaint which, if proven, would establish that the decedent's suicide was the foreseeable result of the defendants' conduct. Further, as to the negligent supervision claims against John Doe I, Jane Doe III, John Doe III, and Jane Doe IV, pled in counts I, II, IV and V, respectively, the plaintiff failed to allege that these defendants were aware of specific instances of prior conduct on the part of their children sufficient to put them on notice that the complained-of acts of their children were likely to ...


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