Hudson v. City of Chicago

Decision Date25 January 2008
Docket NumberNo. 100466.,100466.
Citation889 N.E.2d 210,228 Ill.2d 462
PartiesGeorge HUDSON, Sr., Indiv. and on Behalf of the Estate of George Hudson, Jr., Deceased, et al., Appellants, v. The CITY OF CHICAGO et al., Appellees.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court
OPINION

Chief Justice THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion:

On March 30, 1999, plaintiffs, George Hudson, Sr., on behalf of the estate of his deceased son, George Hudson, Jr., and Ednarine Hudson, individually and as mother and next friend of Ronita Milton, filed suit against the City of Chicago, former Chicago Fire Commissioner Edward P. Altman, and unknown Chicago fire department personnel. Count I of plaintiffs' complaint alleged negligence, and count II alleged willful and wanton misconduct in providing emergency services to George Hudson, Jr.

In October 1999, the circuit court of Cook County granted defendants' motion to dismiss the negligence count on the ground that the City and its employees were immune under section 3.150 of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act (210 ILCS 50/3.150 (West 2000)).

On July 25, 2002, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the remaining willful and wanton misconduct count pursuant to section 2-1009 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1009 (West 2000)). On July 23, 2003, plaintiffs refiled their action, setting forth only one count for willful and wanton misconduct. Defendants moved to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2006)), arguing that the refiled action was barred by res judicata. The circuit court granted the motion, and the appellate court affirmed (No. 1-04-0338 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)). We allowed plaintiffs' petition for leave to appeal (210 Ill.2d R. 315), and we granted the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) leave to file a brief amicus curiae in support of plaintiffs (210 Ill.2d R. 345).

BACKGROUND

In November 1998, five-year-old George Hudson, Jr., died from acute asthma exacerbation. On March 30, 1999, plaintiffs filed a two-count wrongful-death complaint (Hudson I), alleging that on November 25, 1998, George Jr.'s mother, Ednarine, called 911 to request emergency assistance and informed the operator that the child was having breathing problems. Despite being informed that the child was suffering severe breathing problems, defendants dispatched a fire engine. The fire engine had no advanced life support and was the wrong equipment under the circumstances. An advanced life support ambulance arrived approximately 15 minutes after Ednarine's 911 call. Plaintiffs claimed that George Jr. died as a result of the delay in providing advanced life support. Plaintiffs' complaint alleged in count I that defendants were negligent and in count II that defendants had engaged in willful and wanton misconduct.

Defendants moved to dismiss the negligence count pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 2000)), claiming immunity under section 3.150 of the EMS Act (210 ILCS 50/3.150 (West 2000)). In October 1999, the circuit court dismissed plaintiffs' negligence claim with prejudice and continued the cause of action as to the willful and wanton misconduct count. On July 25, 2002, the circuit court granted plaintiffs' motion to voluntarily dismiss the willful and wanton misconduct count.

On July 23, 2003, plaintiffs refiled their wrongful-death action, setting forth only one count for willful and wanton misconduct (Hudson II). The refiled complaint additionally claimed that prior to November 25, 1998, defendant City of Chicago knew that George Jr. had previously suffered serious asthmatic episodes at his home.

Defendants moved to dismiss Hudson II pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2000)), claiming that it was barred by res judicata. The circuit court agreed with defendants' argument that the dismissal of plaintiffs' negligence claim in Hudson I constituted an adjudication on the merits and that res judicata bars not only matters that were determined in the first action, but also matters that could have been determined in the original action. The circuit court therefore held that res judicata barred plaintiffs' willful and wanton claim and granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' refiled action.

Plaintiffs appealed, contending that the circuit court improperly dismissed Hudson II based on res judicata. The appellate court affirmed, relying on Rein v. David A. Noyes & Co., 172 Ill.2d 325, 216 Ill.Dec. 642, 665 N.E.2d 1199 (1996), and held that res judicata barred plaintiffs from refiling their willful and wanton misconduct claim.

ANALYSIS

The central issue is whether the involuntary dismissal of plaintiffs' negligence claim and plaintiffs' subsequent voluntary dismissal of their remaining willful and wanton misconduct claim barred the refiling of their willful and wanton misconduct claim under the doctrine of res judicata. Plaintiffs contend that the appellate court erred in concluding that the willful and wanton misconduct claim in Hudson II was barred by res judicata because there was no final adjudication on the merits of their voluntarily dismissed willful and wanton misconduct claim in Hudson I. Defendants maintain that the dismissal of plaintiffs' negligence count in Hudson I was a final adjudication on the merits for purposes of res judicata and that, applying this court's decision in Rein, res judicata bars plaintiffs' willful and wanton misconduct claim. We agree with defendants and hold that plaintiffs' refiled willful and wanton misconduct claim is barred by res judicata.

"The doctrine of res judicata provides that a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction bars any subsequent actions between the same parties or their privies on the same cause of action." Rein, 172 Ill.2d at 334, 216 Ill.Dec. 642, 665 N.E.2d 1199. Res judicata bars not only what was actually decided in the first action but also whatever could have been decided. La Salle National Bank v. County Board of School Trustees, 61 Ill.2d 524, 529, 337 N.E.2d 19 (1975). Three requirements must be satisfied for res judicata to apply: (1) a final judgment on the merits has been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) an identity of cause of action exists; and (3) the parties or their privies are identical in both actions. Downing v. Chicago Transit Authority, 162 Ill.2d 70, 73-74, 204 Ill.Dec. 755, 642 N.E.2d 456 (1994).

Plaintiffs do not dispute that the second and third requirements are met here. Plaintiffs contend, however, that the first element is not satisfied because the willful and wanton misconduct count was never adjudicated on the merits. Plaintiffs concede that their negligence claim was dismissed on the merits in Hudson I. The trial court dismissed the negligence count based on the defendants' statutory immunity, and Supreme Court Rule 273 provides that "an involuntary dismissal of an action, other than a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, for improper venue, or for failure to join an indispensable party, operates as an adjudication upon the merits" (134 Ill.2d R. 273). Accordingly, the involuntary dismissal of plaintiffs' negligence claim in Hudson I constituted an adjudication on the merits for res judicata purposes.

After their negligence count was dismissed on the merits, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their willful and wanton count pursuant to section 2-1009(a) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-1009(a) (West 2000)). Section 2-1009(a) provides that "[t]he plaintiff may, at any time before trial or hearing begins, * * * dismiss his or her action or any part thereof as to any defendant, without prejudice, by order filed in the cause." 735 ILCS 5/2-1009(a) (West 2000). Once the voluntary dismissal was entered, Hudson I was terminated in its entirety and all final orders became immediately appealable. See Dubina v. Mesirow Realty Development, Inc., 178 Ill.2d 496, 503, 227 Ill.Dec. 389, 687 N.E.2d 871 (1997). Approximately one year later, plaintiffs refiled their willful and wanton claim in Hudson II, purportedly pursuant to section 13-217 of the Code. This section provides:

"Reversal or dismissal. In the actions specified in Article XIII of this Act or any other act or contract where the time for commencing an action is limited, if judgment is entered for the plaintiff but reversed on appeal, or if there is a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and, upon a motion in arrest of judgment, the judgment is entered against the plaintiff, or the action is voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff, or the action is dismissed for want of prosecution, or the action is dismissed by a United States District Court for lack of jurisdiction, or the action is dismissed by a United States District Court for improper venue, then, whether or not the time limitation for bringing such action expires during the pendency of such action, the plaintiff, his or her heirs, executors or administrators may commence a new action within one year or within the remaining period of limitation, whichever is greater, after such judgment is reversed or entered against the plaintiff, or after the action is voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff, or the action is dismissed for want of prosecution, or the action is dismissed by a United States District Court for lack of jurisdiction, or the action is dismissed by a United States District Court for improper venue." 735 ILCS 5/13-217 (West 1994).1

This filing by plaintiffs was not a continuation of Hudson I, but...

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