Taylor v. City of Beardstown

Decision Date31 March 1986
Docket NumberNo. 4-85-0438,4-85-0438
Citation142 Ill.App.3d 584,491 N.E.2d 803,96 Ill.Dec. 524
Parties, 96 Ill.Dec. 524 Joy TAYLOR, as Special Administrator of the Estate of William O. Mefford, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The CITY OF BEARDSTOWN, Beardstown Hospital, R.A. Spencer and George Cook, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Costello, Long, Young & Dvorak, Ltd., Springfield, for plaintiff-appellant.

McConnell, Kennedy, Quinn & Johnston, Ctd., Peoria (Murvel Pretorius, Jr., Troy L. Daugherty, of counsel), for City of Beardstown, Beardstown Hospital and George Cook.

Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen, Springfield (Kevin L. Mechler, Kent L. Plotner, of counsel), for R.A. Spencer.

Justice MORTHLAND delivered the opinion of the court:

This appeal arises out of an order entered by the circuit court of Cass County denying plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her complaint and granting summary judgment in favor of all defendants. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

The record discloses that the plaintiff's decedent, William O. Mefford (the decedent), was admitted to the defendant Beardstown Hospital on February 10, 1981, apparently after suffering an epileptic seizure. On February 13, 1981, decedent fell from his hospital bed and suffered a broken left hip. He had also reportedly fallen from the bed two days earlier, when he incurred a small abrasion on the bridge of his nose. Decedent later died on June 25, 1982.

Plaintiff Joy Taylor, acting as special administrator of the estate of William O. Mefford, filed her original complaint on February 10, 1983. She sought recovery from all four defendants under the Wrongful Death Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 70, par. 1 et seq.) and the Survival Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 110 1/2, par. 27-6). The trial court granted the defendants' motion to strike and dismiss that complaint on July 20, 1983. An amended complaint was thereafter filed on August 29, 1983. Once again, upon motion of the defendants, the trial court dismissed the complaint on October 17, 1983, with leave to amend. A second amended complaint was filed by the plaintiff on November 15, 1983, to which the defendants filed answers.

The second amended complaint essentially alleged that defendants city of Beardstown and Beardstown Hospital failed to provide personnel to attend to the decedent before he fell, when decedent was suffering from dizziness and lack of balance; employed incompetent and untrained personnel; failed to provide necessary preventive measures and safeguards to avoid the injuries sustained by the decedent; failed to provide bedrails and restraints; and failed or refused to render immediate and necessary treatment to the decedent after he fell.

Plaintiff further alleged in her second amended complaint that defendant Dr. R.A. Spencer, the admitting physician, negligently failed to instruct the hospital staff to ensure that necessary safeguards were employed; failed to employ necessary preventive measures to avoid the injury sustained; failed to direct that bedrails and restraints be employed; and failed to properly tend to and appreciate the extent of the decedent's injury.

As to the defendant George Cook, a nurse's aid at the hospital, the second amended complaint alleged that he failed to ascertain that the decedent was suffering from dizziness and loss of balance; failed to employ necessary preventive measures to protect the decedent from falling; failed to use bedrails and restraints to confine the decedent to his bed; failed to support and hold the decedent steady; and failed to timely notify medical personnel so as to allow prompt treatment of the decedent after his fall.

Plaintiff also made the bald assertion that as a "direct and proximate result of the aforesaid wrongful acts and omissions," William O. Mefford died. However, there are no allegations supporting any causal link between the broken hip suffered in February 1981 and decedent's death in June of 1982.

Defendant Dr. Spencer filed a motion for summary judgment on April 13, 1984; that motion was denied. Defendants city of Beardstown, Beardstown Hospital, and George Cook later filed their motion for summary judgment on January 4, 1985. Dr. Spencer filed another such motion on January 21, 1985.

On March 25, 1985, the day before the hearing on all defendants' motions for summary judgment, plaintiff filed a response to those motions as well as a motion for leave to file an amendment to plead res ipsa loquitur. The court on March 26 denied plaintiff's motion to amend her second amended complaint and granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants. The court found that the defendants had established the standard of care applicable to them and had shown that they had met this standard; plaintiff, on the other hand, had failed to show any standard of care and had failed to present any competent evidence in rebuttal.

Plaintiff thereafter filed a motion for reconsideration as well as a motion for leave to file additional documentation on April 24, 1985. During a hearing held concerning plaintiff's motion to reconsider on June 3, 1985, the trial judge stated he believed the res ipsa count "didn't raise anything new" because "everything alleged in the amended complaint was known to the parties long before or should have been known to them even long before discovery was started, let alone completed * * *." The court noted it exercised its discretion in refusing to allow amendment of the complaint, as any other result would have the practical effect of merely "prolonging the case unnecessarily." However, the court did grant the plaintiff's motion to file additional documentation. Also, the court ordered that a copy of the proposed amendment be made a part of the record. An amended order containing the court's findings, granting summary judgment as to all four defendants, and denying plaintiff leave to file an amendment, was entered that same day.

Plaintiff appeals, contending that: (1) the trial court erred in denying her motion for leave to file an amended complaint to plead res ipsa loquitur; (2) she was not required to submit expert testimony as to the applicable standard of care in response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment; and (3) the trial court erred in granting summary judgment as to the defendants because plaintiff had raised genuine issues of material fact.

We first consider plaintiff's contentions regarding the denial of her motion to file a third amended complaint to plead res ipsa loquitur. Under the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 110, par. 1-101 et seq.), amendments to pleadings are to be liberally allowed to enable the party to fully present his or her case. (Scala/O'Brien Porsche Audi, Inc. v. Volkswagen of America, Inc. (1980), 87 Ill.App.3d 757, 762, 43 Ill.Dec. 205, 208, 410 N.E.2d 205, 208.) The granting or denying of any amendment, particularly a late amendment, is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. (Prince v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (1981), 95 Ill.App.3d 856, 860, 51 Ill.Dec. 323, 326, 420 N.E.2d 737, 740.) A court may permit amendment to a complaint at any time before final judgment. (Richardson v. Economy Fire & Casualty Co. (1984), 126 Ill.App.3d 520, 523, 81 Ill.Dec. 617, 620, 467 N.E.2d 317, 320, rev'd on other grounds (1985), 109 Ill.2d 41, 46, 92 Ill.Dec. 516, 518, 485 N.E.2d 327, 329; Ill.Rev.Stat.1983, ch. 110, par. 2-616(a).) The decision of a trial court as to whether to permit amendment is a matter of judicial discretion and will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of such discretion. (Intini v. Schwartz (1979), 78 Ill.App.3d 575, 579, 33 Ill.Dec. 751, 754, 397 N.E.2d 84, 87.) The test to be applied in this regard is whether the ends of justice are being furthered by allowing the amendment or rejecting it. Bowman v. County of Lake (1963), 29 Ill.2d 268, 281, 193 N.E.2d 833, 840; Economy Fire & Casualty Co. v. Pearce (1979), 79 Ill.App.3d 559, 35 Ill.Dec. 317, 399 N.E.2d 151; 20 Ill.L. & Prac. Pleading § 104 (1957).

In passing on a motion to amend, a court should properly consider the ultimate efficacy of a claim as well as previous opportunities to assert it. (Bowman; City of Des Plaines v. Pollution Control Board (1978), 60 Ill.App.3d 995, 17 Ill.Dec. 924, 377 N.E.2d 114.) Thus, the merits of a proposed amendment should be considered, and a trial court should not deny leave to amend solely on the basis of a delay in filing, unless accompanied by a showing of prejudice to the opposing party which goes beyond mere inconvenience. (Cvengros v. Liquid Carbonic Corp. (1981), 99 Ill.App.3d 376, 54 Ill.Dec. 833 425 N.E.2d 1050; Bonanno v. La Salle & Bureau County R.R. Co. (1980), 87 Ill.App.3d 988, 42 Ill.Dec. 866, 409 N.E.2d 481.) If, on the other hand, the proposed amendment as submitted to the trial court would not cure any defects in the complaint, then a motion for leave to amend is properly denied. Kittay v. Allstate Insurance Co. (1979), 78 Ill.App.3d 335, 339, 33 Ill.Dec. 867, 870, 397 N.E.2d 200, 203.

Plaintiff argues that the theory of res ipsa loquitur was not advanced in her previous amendments to the initial complaint because its applicability only became apparent through discovery. Plaintiff urges that this amendment would cure any defects in her cause of action, while the defendants would not be in any way prejudiced. Defendants, on the other hand, argue that the plaintiff had ample opportunity to formulate and discover a proper cause of action, that the addition of a res ipsa count adds nothing to the plaintiff's cause of action as already considered, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion because plaintiff has failed in any event to raise an inference of negligence under res ipsa loquitur.

Our decision in this area also requires a discussion of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in medical malpractice actions. The doctrine has been routinely held applicable to such actions. (...

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