Leonardi v. Bradley University, 3-92-0805

Citation625 N.E.2d 431,253 Ill.App.3d 685
Decision Date13 December 1993
Docket NumberNo. 3-92-0805,3-92-0805
Parties, 192 Ill.Dec. 471, 87 Ed. Law Rep. 1028 Angenette LEONARDI, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BRADLEY UNIVERSITY, Defendant-Appellee (Adam Sanders, Defendant.)
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

George P. Lindner (argued), John R. Felton (argued), Lindner, Speers & Reuland, P.C., Aurora, for Angenette Leonardi.

T. Donald Henson (argued), Herbolsheimer, Lannon, Henson, Duncan & Reagan, P.C., LaSalle, for Bradley University.

Presiding Justice McCUSKEY delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Angenette Leonardi, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Peoria County which dismissed count II of her second amended complaint. The dismissed count of plaintiff's complaint was a negligence action against Bradley University (Bradley). Plaintiff alleged Bradley had a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect her from sexual assault. Plaintiff claims this duty is based upon a special relationship of business inviter-invitee which existed between her and Bradley.

Plaintiff raises two issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred in dismissing her complaint against Bradley; and (2) whether a special relationship of business inviter-invitee existed between plaintiff and Bradley under the circumstances of the alleged sexual assault.

We affirm the trial court's dismissal of plaintiff's second amended complaint. Based upon the facts alleged by plaintiff, we do not find the existence of any business inviter-invitee relationship between plaintiff and Bradley at the time of the alleged sexual assault.

On November 14, 1991, plaintiff filed her initial complaint against Adam Sanders. The complaint alleged that Sanders, on or about September 13-14, 1991, "without cause or provocation, assaulted, battered, sexually harassed and raped plaintiff."

On January 10, 1992, an order was entered granting plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint naming Bradley as an additional party defendant. Plaintiff's first amended complaint contained the same factual allegations against Sanders. However, an additional Count II was added which made allegations of negligence against Bradley.

In Count II of the first amended complaint, plaintiff alleged that, at the time of the alleged sexual assault, she was a student at Bradley and the rape occurred on Bradley's campus. Plaintiff also alleged there was a special relationship of business inviter-invitee which existed between plaintiff and Bradley at the time of the alleged sexual assault. She alleged that Bradley knew, through a study conducted by its psychology department, "that 20.2% of first-year women and 23% of the upper class women reported that while students at Bradley they were victims of attempted or perpetrated sexual assault."

Plaintiff alleged Bradley knew or should have known that it was reasonably foreseeable she would be the victim of a sexual assault while attending Bradley as a student. Plaintiff's first amended complaint further alleged Bradley failed to take any action to warn her or to take reasonable and necessary precautions to protect her from sexual assault. Plaintiff concluded she was raped as a direct and proximate result of Bradley's negligence.

On March 4, 1992, an order was entered on plaintiff's motion allowing the filing instanter of a second amended complaint. Plaintiff's second amended complaint expanded the factual allegations against Sanders. The factual allegations in Count II against Bradley were identical to those alleged in the first amended complaint.

On March 13, 1992, Bradley filed a motion to dismiss Count II of plaintiff's second amended complaint pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill.Rev.Stat.1991, ch. 110, par. 2-615). On April 6, 1992, Sanders also filed a motion to dismiss Count I of the second amended complaint.

On August 27, 1992, the trial court granted both motions to dismiss. However, plaintiff was granted an additional 14 days to file a third amended complaint against Sanders. Count II of plaintiff's second amended complaint against Bradley was dismissed with prejudice. The trial court found, relying on Rabel v. Illinois Wesleyan University (1987), 161 Ill.App.3d 348, 112 Ill.Dec. 889, 514 N.E.2d 552, that Bradley had no duty to protect plaintiff from the criminal acts of third parties.

On September 8, 1992, plaintiff filed a third amended complaint against Sanders. In the third amended complaint, plaintiff alleged the sexual assault occurred at Sanders' fraternity house.

Plaintiff also filed on September 8, 1992, a motion to reconsider the trial court's order dismissing Count II of the second amended complaint with prejudice. On October 13, 1992, the trial court denied plaintiff's motion to reconsider and found there was no reason to delay an appeal of the order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 304(a) (134 Ill.2d R. 304(a)). Plaintiff then filed a timely notice of appeal. We note Sanders is not a party to this appeal.

On appeal, plaintiff argues the trial court erred by improperly interpreting Rabel v. Illinois Wesleyan University (1987), 161 Ill.App.3d 348, 112 Ill.Dec. 889, 514 N.E.2d 552. Plaintiff contends the court in Rabel did not determine whether a business inviter-invitee relationship exists between a university and its students. We agree with plaintiff's analysis that Rabel did not discuss the business inviter-invitee relationship.

Plaintiff further argues that Bradley's motion to dismiss should not have been granted because the facts alleged in Count II of her second amended complaint were sufficient to allege a special business inviter-invitee relationship. After reviewing the entire record on appeal, we disagree with plaintiff on this issue. Plaintiff points out that courts in jurisdictions other than Illinois have recognized that a business inviter-invitee relationship exists between a university and its students. However, we believe those cases do not support plaintiff's position in this appeal. Plaintiff is seeking reversal of the trial court's order based upon her contention that her allegations are sufficient to state a cause of action. Plaintiff has not claimed on appeal that she should have been allowed the opportunity to further amend her complaint. Also, the record is clear that no request was made before the trial court to further amend plaintiff's complaint.

In the case at hand, Bradley argues that Rabel conclusively stated there is no special relationship existing between a university and its students. Bradley also contends plaintiff's complaint was properly dismissed because it had no duty to protect plaintiff. We agree with Bradley's second argument that, based on the facts alleged, Bradley had no duty to protect plaintiff from the criminal acts which she alleged occurred in Sanders' fraternity house.

Initially, we must agree with plaintiff that Rabel did not review the precise issue raised here. In Rabel, the plaintiff was a female college student attending Illinois Wesleyan University. She received a telephone call from a male fraternity member who asked her to meet him at the lobby of her university dormitory. When she met him, he picked her up and ran out of the dormitory and through a gauntlet of other fraternity members who struck at him with bones. The fraternity member fell while carrying the plaintiff, and the plaintiff sustained severe head injuries. Rabel, 161 Ill.App.3d at 350-51, 112 Ill.Dec. at 891, 514 N.E.2d at 554.

In Rabel, the plaintiff sued the fraternity member, the fraternity and the university. The Fourth District Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the plaintiff's complaint against the university. The Rabel court rejected the following arguments: (1) that the university had placed itself in a custodial relationship with its students and thus had a duty to protect its students from the actions of third parties (Rabel, 161 Ill.App.3d at 361, 112 Ill.Dec. at 897-98, 514 N.E.2d at 560-61); and (2) that the university had a duty based upon the university's role as landlord of the plaintiff's dormitory (Rabel, 161 Ill.App.3d at 362-63, 112 Ill.Dec. at 898-99, 514 N.E.2d at 561-62).

The plaintiff in Rabel did not argue that the university had any duty to its students based upon a business inviter-invitee relationship. Consequently, we agree with plaintiff that Rabel is not dispositive of the specific issue raised here. Here, the crucial issue is whether Bradley had a duty to protect plaintiff from the reasonably foreseeable criminal acts of third parties based on a special business inviter-invitee relationship alleged to exist between Bradley and plaintiff.

We agree with plaintiff that the trial court's reliance on Rabel was misplaced. However, just because the court's reliance on Rabel was misplaced does not mean that we must automatically reverse the order dismissing plaintiff's complaint. It is well settled that a court of review may sustain a trial court's judgment on any grounds supported by the record, regardless of whether the reason given by the trial court was correct. (Estate of Johnson v. Condell Memorial Hospital (1988), 119 Ill.2d 496, 502, 117 Ill.Dec. 47, 49, 520 N.E.2d 37, 39; Murray v. Board of Review (1992), 237 Ill.App.3d 792, 796, 178 Ill.Dec. 517, 520, 604 N.E.2d 1040, 1043.) Here, we conclude that plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts necessary to establish the existence of a business inviter-invitee relationship.

In an action for negligence, the plaintiff must set forth sufficient facts establishing the existence of a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, a breach of that duty, and an injury proximately caused by the breach. (Rowe v. State Bank (1988), 125 Ill.2d 203, 215, 126 Ill.Dec. 519, 525, 531 N.E.2d 1358, 1364.) The question of the existence of a duty is one of law, and, in determining whether a duty exists, the trial court considers whether a relationship...

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    ...had it voluntarily assumed or placed itself in a custodial relationship with its students); Leonardi v. Bradley University , 253 Ill. App. 3d 685, 690–91, 192 Ill.Dec. 471, 625 N.E.2d 431 (1993) (university had no duty to protect student from sexual assault that occurred at a fraternity hou......
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