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Gillard v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

June 14, 2019

LISA J. GILLARD, Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 16 L 9575 Honorable Clare Elizabeth McWilliams and Irwin Solganick, Judges Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE DELORT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 This appeal arises from a tort action brought by plaintiff, Lisa J. Gillard, against defendants, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Prentice Hospital, Starbucks Corporation (Starbucks), and Universal Protection Services, Fresh Market Café, d/b/a/ Morrison's, and Premier Security Corporation (Premier Security).[1] Gillard appeals the circuit court's dismissal of her fourth amended complaint and the denial of two motions to reinstate the case. With the exception of Starbucks, all of the defendants have moved for sanctions, arguing that this appeal is frivolous and that Gillard has engaged in an egregious pattern of meritless serial litigation. We affirm the orders of the circuit court and grant the motions for sanctions.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On September 26, 2016, Gillard shoved a security guard at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The legal ramifications of this altercation are difficult to overstate. That event set off a series of lawsuits resulting in at least 10 criminal and civil appeals before this court.[2] So although the issues in this appeal are relatively simple and straightforward, we cannot properly address them without a review of Gillard's litigation over the last few years.

         ¶ 4 A. This Case

         ¶ 5 This is Gillard's second civil lawsuit against the very same defendants. In the first case, she alleged that the defendants "harassed, aggressively stalked, and incited with fear of violence to harm and injure her person and profession" during various visits to the facilities at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Prentice Hospital.[3]

         ¶ 6 While that case was pending, Gillard continued to frequent the hospitals' facilities. September 26, 2016, was one such occasion. That evening, a security guard asked Gillard to leave after she verbally abused one of his coworkers. An altercation ensued, and Gillard shoved the security guard in the chest. In response, security personnel issued a written notice that Gillard was considered a trespasser and that she was not welcome on hospital property. The notice stated: "If you violate this notice you will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. You will receive no further warning. Do not enter the land or building of Northwestern Memorial Hospital." Security personnel also called the police. Officers of the Chicago Police Department responded to the call and arrested Gillard for criminal battery.

         ¶ 7 Gillard filed this case two days after her arrest. She filed a pro se complaint against the defendants, seeking $300 million dollars in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She alleged that the defendants issued the written trespass notice and had her arrested in retaliation for bringing the earlier lawsuit. She also alleged that the trespass notice was a libelous publication and that defendants' claims that she committed a criminal battery on a security guard were "false and defamatory." Gillard attached a copy of the written trespass notice as an exhibit to her complaint.

         ¶ 8 Before any of the defendants answered the initial complaint, Gillard filed an amended complaint. The amended complaint was substantially similar to the original complaint but only claimed defamation per se. Gillard then filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, which the circuit court granted. Gillard's second amended complaint restored a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         ¶ 9 The defendants moved to consolidate this case with Gillard's earlier case against them. Gillard opposed consolidation on the grounds that the first lawsuit was already proceeding apace, and that consolidation would allow the defendants to avoid existing deadlines in that case. She also argued that although the parties in each case were the same, the underlying facts, causes of action, and injuries were different. The circuit court denied the motion to consolidate.

         ¶ 10 Rather than answer the second amended complaint, the defendants variously moved to dismiss it under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2016)). They argued, inter alia, that the trespass notice did not contain any false statement and that the complaint did not allege sufficient facts identifying the sort of extreme and outrageous conduct required to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress count. Certain defendants also argued that the second amended complaint did not contain any specific allegations related to their conduct.

         ¶ 11 The case was briefly dismissed for want of prosecution, but that dismissal was vacated on Gillard's motion. With the case back on the docket, the court granted the motions to dismiss without prejudice and gave Gillard leave to file a third amended complaint. Gillard's third amended complaint repleaded the counts for defamation per se and intentional infliction of emotional distress and added new claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress and false light. Gillard also increased her monetary demand to $500 million.

         ¶ 12 Again, the defendants individually filed motions under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code. Gillard failed to appear on a series of court dates, and the court dismissed the case for want of prosecution for a second time. Again, Gillard moved to vacate the dismissal, and again the court reinstated the case.

         ¶ 13 Before the motions to dismiss could be heard, Gillard moved for substitution of judge as of right and for cause. Another judge heard and denied the motion for substitution. Nevertheless, the assigned judge then recused himself from all cases involving Gillard.

         ¶ 14 The case was reassigned to a different judge in the law division. Once again, Gillard moved for substitution of judge before the motions to dismiss could be heard. And again, the motion to substitute was denied, but the assigned judge recused herself from all cases involving Gillard.

         ¶ 15 Around this time, Gillard filed a tort complaint against several Cook County sheriff's officers assigned to duty on the twenty-second floor of the Daley Center. Consequently, all of the law division motion call judges recused themselves from all of Gillard's pending cases. Her cases, including this one, were all assigned to Judge Clare Elizabeth McWilliams.

         ¶ 16 The court heard oral argument on the pending motions to dismiss and entered an order granting the motions without prejudice. The court granted leave for Gillard to file a fourth amended complaint, which is the version at issue here.

         ¶ 17 Gillard's fourth amended complaint sought $3 billion in damages and the termination of several of defendants' employees. Gillard pleaded claims for defamation per se (counts I and II), intentional infliction of emotional distress (count III), negligent infliction of emotional distress (count IV), and false light (count V).

         ¶ 18 By the time Gillard filed the fourth amended complaint, her criminal case had concluded. After a bench trial, Gillard was convicted of criminal battery and sentenced to one year of court supervision and ordered not to have any contact with Northwestern Memorial Hospital except in the case of medical emergency. People v. Gillard, 2018 IL App (1st) 171121-U, ¶ 1 (Gillard I).

         ¶ 19 The defendants again moved to dismiss the case on section 2-615 and section 2-619 grounds. They argued, among other things, that Gillard's conviction for battery established conclusively that any statements the defendants had made about Gillard shoving a security guard were not false. They also argued that the fourth amended complaint, like the previous complaints, did not plead adequate facts to support any of her claims. The court set a briefing schedule on the motions to dismiss, ordering Gillard to file her response brief on or before September 11, 2018.

         ¶ 20 Importantly to our ultimate disposition of this appeal, Gillard did not respond to the motions to dismiss. Rather, she filed a motion to substitute Judge McWilliams for cause. She alleged that Judge McWilliams "is a part of 'ring of conspiracy' by judges, conspiring to deprive Ms. Gillard of her life and liberty rights as well as her individual and constitutional rights under the law." Another judge heard and denied the motion for substitution.

         ¶ 21 Undaunted, Gillard filed a civil complaint against Judge McWilliams, alleging civil rights violations and civil conspiracy. Gillard v. McWilliams, 2019 IL App (1st) 182217-U, ΒΆ 5. Gillard used the lawsuit against Judge McWilliams as the basis for several additional "emergency motions" to have the case reassigned. She alleged that her pending lawsuit required Judge McWilliams to recuse herself pursuant to Rule 63(C)(1) (Ill. S.Ct. R. 63(C)(1) (eff. Feb. 2, 2017)). She also alleged that "[Judge] McWilliams is 'mentally ill,' thereby, ...

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