Department of Public Welfare v. Haas, No. 34924

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtDAVIS
Citation154 N.E.2d 265,15 Ill.2d 204
PartiesThe DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, Appellee, v. Edward C. HAAS, Appellant.
Decision Date26 November 1958
Docket NumberNo. 34924

Page 265

154 N.E.2d 265
15 Ill.2d 204
The DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, Appellee,
v.
Edward C. HAAS, Appellant.
No. 34924.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
Nov. 26, 1958.

[15 Ill.2d 206]

Page 267

Leonard Karlin, Chicago (Harry G. Fins, Chicago, of counsel), for appellant.

Benjamin S. Adamowski, State's Atty., Chicago (Francis X. Riley, Chicago, of counsel), for appellee.

DAVIS, Justice.

The Department of Public Welfare of the State of Illinois for the use of the People of the State of Illinois, plaintiff, brought an action in the county court of Cook County against the defendant, Edward C. Haas, to enforce payment of maintenance charges for defendant's son, Richard, an inmate of the Lincoln State School. The action was brought under the pertinent provisions of the Mental Health Code. Ill.Rev.Stat.1953, chap. 91 1/2, pars. 9-19, 9-20, 9-21, 9-23. After filing an appearance and demand for a jury trial, defendant answered, denying liability for payment of the charges and asserting that the act violated certain provisions of the State and Federal constitutions. After the plaintiff had answered written interrogatories propounded by defendant, it filed a motion for summary judgment supported by affidavit. Defendant's motion to strike was overruled and counteraffidavits were filed. The court allowed the motion for summary judgment and entered judgment against defendant in the sum of $2,040 and costs. Defendant appealed directly to this court asserting jurisdiction on the ground that the State [15 Ill.2d 207] is interested as a party (Illinois Public Aid Comm. v. Massie, 13 Ill.2d 498, 150 N.E.2d 154) and that the construction of certain provisions of the State and Federal constitutions is involved. Karas v. Snell, 11 Ill.2d 233, 142 N.E.2d 46. The jurisdiction of this court is properly invoked.

The complaint, filed December 23, 1954, prayed for the recovery of maintenance charges for defendant's son for the months of January, 1952, through October, 1954, at the rate of $60 per month. Plaintiff alleged in substance that the action was brought by the State's Attorney at the request of the Department of Public Welfare, herein called the Department; that Richard Haas had been adjudicated an incompetent person and since August 28, 1949, had been confined in Lincoln State Hospital under the control of the Department; that the incompetent was unable to pay maintenance charges and had no estate sufficient to defray them. After setting forth the pertinent provisions of the code providing for liability on the part of the spouse, parent or parents, child or children in case of inability of the patient or his estate to meet the charges (Ill.Rev.Stat.1953, chap. 91 1/2, par. 9-19), plaintiff alleged that the patient was unmarried; that defendant was his father; that the Department, pursuant to the code (Ill.Rev.Stat.1953, chap. 91 1/2, pars. 9-20, 9-21), had calculated and fixed the per capita cost of maintaining the patient at $60 per month; that pursuant to par. 9-21

Page 268

the Department had submitted monthly statements to the defendant for the per capita costs; that defendant had failed, refused and neglected to pay them; and that the sum of $2,040 was due as evidenced by the attached itemized claim.

Defendant's answer admitted paternity and the adjudication of incompetency, and that Richard is unmarried and unable to pay. Defendant denied liability under the code and that the claim is for maintenance. As to the allegation that the Department had calculated and fixed the per capita cost, defendant denied 'that the Department of Public [15 Ill.2d 208] Welfare has properly calculated and fixed the per capita cost of maintenance to be Sixty Dollars per month and demands strict proof thereof.' The answer did not deny that the Department submitted to defendant monthly statements for per capita costs pursuant to paragraph 9-21. The remainder of the answer challenged the constitutionality of the code on many grounds, most of which are not urged on this appeal.

The motion for summary judgment alleged that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, as appears from the pleadings, the interrogatories and answers thereto, and the certified copies of documents and affidavits attached. The motion noted the admissions of defendant's answer and that he failed to plead inability to pay. Certified copies of various duly adopted regulations of the Department were attached to the motion, including regulation No. 49 which established the per capita cost of maintaining patients in State institutions, and the affidavit of the superintendent of the Lincoln State School which recited that Richard Haas was committed as a patient to that school on June 24, 1948, and was still so confined on March 6, 1956.

Defendant's lengthy and argumentative counteraffidavit contained more allegations of conclusion than fact. So far as material, it stated that he lives in a rented apartment with his wife and another son, Stephen, 13 years of age; that he also supports his aged mother in a separate apartment; that he is employed at a salary, is in moderately poor health and 'has no reserve of investment or savings'; that all of his family is entirely dependent upon his earnings; that 'in keeping with his status as a professional person' his salary 'leaves no surplus'; that his son Richard, is described as mentally deficient, or feeble minded; that he was committed to the Lincoln State School because the State and city failed to provide 'educational and training facilities for children of the type and who develop at the rate of development'[15 Ill.2d 209] of his son; and that the latter was committed to 'receive training and education suited to his needs and for his development' to the end that 'he may become partially self-sufficient and a limited asset to the community'. Included in defendant's affidavit is a verbose statement upon information and belief of matters which Dr. Otto G. Bettag, Director of the Department, might testify to if called as a witness. Many of the statements attributed to him are immaterial and the remainder are self-serving to the defendant and prejudicial to the plaintiff. Such statements lack the dignity of hearsay evidence and the trial court was warranted in ignoring them. In justification of the use of these supposititious statements, defendant alleged that Dr. Bettag was hostile, and that his affidavit was not available. However, the testimony of Dr. Bettag was available to the defendant under the applicable provisions of the Civil Practice Act, Ill.Rev.Stat.1957, c. 110, § 1 et seq.

Defendant first contends that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the cause; that section 7 of the act to extend the jurisdiction of county courts provides that such courts shall have concurrent jurisdiction with circuit courts 'in all that class of cases wherein justices of the peace now have or may hereafter have jurisdiction, where the amount claimed or the value of the property in controversy shall not exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000)' (Ill.Rev.Stat.1953, chap. 37, par. 177); and that since the sum demanded was in excess of $2,000 the

Page 269

court lacked jurisdiction. Plaintiff asserts that the court has jurisdiction under the provisions of section 9-23 of the Mental Health Code, (Ill.Rev.Stat.1953, chap. 91 1/2, par. 9-23,) which provides that the State's Attorney of the county in which a person resides who is liable under the code for payment of maintenance charges, shall file suit in the county court against such person or persons who fail or refuse to pay such charges and the court may enter an order for the payment thereof. Defendant urges that the code cannot confer [15 Ill.2d 210] jurisdiction upon the county court to hear and determine claims for maintenance charges in excess of $2,000; and that if given such effect, the code violates the provisions of section 18, article VI of the Illinois constitution, S.H.A., which, so far as applicable here, provides that county courts 'shall have original jurisdiction in all matters of probate, settlement of estates of deceased persons, appointment of guardians and conservators, and settlements of their accounts, in all matters relating to apprentices, and in proceedings for the collection of taxes and assessments, and such other jurisdiction as may be provided for by general law.' Defendant also urges that section 9-23 of the code is not a general law, but rather a special law, since it is limited in purpose to the collection of maintenance charges and may be used only by the department as plaintiff.

Section 22 of article IV of the Illinois constitution, after prohibiting the passage of local or special laws in...

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