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Doe v. Hastert

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

June 21, 2019

RICHARD DOE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
JOHN DENNIS HASTERT, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kendall County. No. 17-L-38 Honorable Robert P. Pilmer, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Jorgenson and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          McLAREN JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff, Richard Doe, appeals the dismissal of his four-count complaint alleging battery, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from a sexual assault committed by defendant, John Dennis Hastert, when plaintiff was a child. The trial court dismissed plaintiff's complaint, agreeing with defendant's assertion that plaintiff's cause of action was barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred because the limitations period was delayed or tolled by (1) the discovery rule, (2) fraudulent concealment, (3) equitable estoppel, (4) equitable tolling, and (5) public policy. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On May 26, 2017, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant. Plaintiff's complaint contained four counts. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(5) (West 2016)). The trial court dismissed the action, determining that plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations for personal-injury claims (id. § 13-202). Plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied.

         ¶ 4 A. Plaintiff's Complaint

         ¶ 5 The following facts are alleged in plaintiff's complaint and we accept them as true for purposes of our review of the ruling on defendant's motion to dismiss See Parks v. Kownacki, 193 Ill.2d 164, 167-68 (2000). During the spring or summer of 1973 or 1974, when plaintiff was 9 or 10 years old, [1] plaintiff was riding his bike along Game Farm Road. Plaintiff stopped at the Game Farm Building to use the bathroom. While plaintiff was in a bathroom stall, sitting on the toilet, he heard a male voice mutter something outside the stall door. Suddenly, the stall door opened and defendant entered the stall. Defendant's genitals were exposed. Defendant grabbed plaintiff by the neck, bent plaintiff over the toilet, and forcefully sodomized plaintiff. After the sexual assault, defendant left the bathroom. Plaintiff saw defendant's face at that time but did not recognize him.

         ¶ 6 Several weeks later, while plaintiff was in gym class at Yorkville Grade School, he saw a large man enter and walk toward the gym teacher. Plaintiff recognized the man as defendant. The sight of defendant caused plaintiff to shake and cry. Defendant spoke with the gym teacher and then defendant approached plaintiff. Defendant took plaintiff by the neck and led him into the hallway. In the hallway defendant dropped to his knees and asked plaintiff if he had told anyone about the assault. Plaintiff, still crying, said no. Defendant warned plaintiff against reporting the assault and threatened him, saying that defendant's father was the sheriff and that if plaintiff told anyone about the assault plaintiff's parents would be put in jail.

         ¶ 7 The events caused plaintiff severe mental and emotional distress, interfering with his daily life and preventing him from fully processing the sexual assault and the short- and long-term injuries caused by the assault. It was not until 1984 or 1985, when plaintiff was 20 or 21 years old, that he began to comprehend the scope of defendant's malevolent acts against him. At that time, plaintiff went to the Kendall County State's Attorney's Office, where he intended to report the crime. Plaintiff spoke with Kendall County State's Attorney Dallas C. Ingemunson. Unbeknownst to plaintiff, Ingemunson was an associate of defendant's. Ingemunson had been defendant's personal attorney, he and defendant were business partners in various ventures, and he played a prominent role in defendant's political career.

         ¶ 8 When plaintiff told Ingemunson what defendant had done to him, Ingemunson threatened to charge plaintiff with a crime and accused plaintiff of slandering defendant's name. "Upon information and belief [Ingemunson's] threats were intended to prevent plaintiff from discovering the full extent of the crimes committed against him" and were made for defendant's benefit. Ingemunson's threats caused plaintiff further mental and emotional distress. As a result, plaintiff was traumatized, repressed the sexual assault, and was intimidated into silence.

         ¶ 9 A short time thereafter, defendant was elected to the United States House of Representatives and, subsequently, became Speaker of the House. Defendant's prominence caused plaintiff to further withdraw and attempt to suppress his memories of the sexual assault. Defendant's position, coupled with the multiple threats against plaintiff and his family, intimidated plaintiff and precluded him from speaking with anyone regarding whether he might have a civil claim against defendant.

         ¶ 10 In May 2015, defendant was indicted and federal law enforcement officials stated that defendant was believed to have paid $1.7 million to conceal his sexual abuse of a former student. Shortly thereafter, news stories circulated regarding accusations of defendant's abuse of underage male students. When plaintiff learned of these stories, he began to fully understand what had happened to him, including that he might have a claim against defendant for his injuries.

         ¶ 11 Based on these facts, plaintiff alleged four counts of liability against defendant: battery, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         ¶ 12 B. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         ¶ 13 On September 12, 2017, defendant filed a motion to dismiss under section 2-619(a)(5) of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (id. § 2-619(a)(5)), alleging that plaintiff's claims were barred by the 2-year statute of limitations for personal-injury actions and by the 12-year statute of repose. The alleged abuse occurred in 1973 or 1974. Plaintiff turned 18 in 1982; however, he did not file a complaint until 2017, more than 30 years later. Defendant alleged that the complaint makes clear that plaintiff was aware of his claims in 1984 or 1985, after he had turned 18. Defendant also alleged that the discovery rule did not save plaintiff's claims, because he had actual knowledge of them in 1984 or 1985. Similarly, because nothing was concealed from plaintiff, his claims were not tolled under the theory of fraudulent concealment. Plaintiff alleged that he was aware of all the facts giving rise to his cause of action after he had turned 18. Finally, the statute of repose barred plaintiff's claims even if the statute of limitations did not, because plaintiff reached the age of 30 decades before he filed his complaint.

         ¶ 14 On October 10, 2017, plaintiff filed his response to defendant's motion to dismiss, alleging and arguing the following. The limitations period was tolled by the actions of defendant and those acting on his behalf, under the theory of equitable estoppel. Plaintiff cited section 13-202.2(d-1) of the Code (id. § 13-202.2(d-1)) (the limitations period for childhood sexual abuse does "not run during a time period when the person abused is subject to threats, intimidation, manipulation, or fraud perpetrated by the abuser or by any person acting in the interest of the abuser")). Further, the statute of repose was repealed before plaintiff's claims were barred. The statute of repose for claims of childhood sexual abuse required claims to be brought before the victim's thirtieth birthday. Effective January 1, 1994, the statute of repose was repealed. Because plaintiff was born in 1964, the repose period had not run on his claims prior to the statute's repeal and, therefore, his claims were not barred.

         ¶ 15 C. Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery

         ¶ 16 On November 16, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion to compel discovery of defendant. Plaintiff alleged that defendant had failed to provide any responses to the written discovery requests that plaintiff issued on September 29, 2017. Rather, on October 27, 2017, defendant had provided objections to all of plaintiff's ...

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