Illinois Appellate Court Determines Timeliness of Relation-Back Doctrine

On Aug. 2, 2005, Brandy Pirrello was a resident at Maryville Academy, a facility that houses and treats minors with behavioral problems. At the time, Brandy was 16 years old. She had been admitted to the facility in early 2005 and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was at risk of suicide or self-harm. On Aug. 2, 2005, Brandy leaped from her second-story window, landed on a cement patio and seriously injured herself.

On July 17, 2007, Brandy turned 18 years old. The day before, she filed a lawsuit against Maryville. Brandy claimed that Maryville had been negligent in choosing not to take precautions against the risk that she would try to hurt herself. Brandy was seeking compensation for the expenses that she incurred due to her hospitalization and related medical expenses.

However, the injury and the bulk of the expenses incurred between the ages of 16 and 18 and as such, fell under Illinois Family Expense Act. By the terms of the act, the responsibility for paying for Brandy’s medical care was her parents’ responsibility rather than Brandy herself. Therefore, her parents had the right to sue. Brandy’s parents did not join her as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Brandy’s parents divorced when she was 8, and Brandy was on her father’s health insurance at the time of her injuries. Brandy’s father indicated at a deposition that he did not intend to be involved in her lawsuit.

Brandy never claimed to be an assignee of her parent’s right to recover in the lawsuit. Maryville argued that the statute of limitations on the incident had already passed, with almost four years having passed between the injury date and the filing of the lawsuit.

Brandy argued that the relation-back doctrine should mean that her two-year statute of limitations began tolling only after she turned 18 because until then she was not able to pursue legal recourse against Maryville. Brandy asked the court for leave to file a third-amended complaint, which would have added her father as a plaintiff.

The circuit court judge found in favor of Maryville deciding that Pirrello’s lawsuit was time-barred and denied her leave to file an additional amended pleading. Brandy appealed.

The appellate court acknowledged that Brandy’s application of the relation-back doctrine would apply if her father had assigned her the right of recovery. However, Brandy’s father was very clear that he had no interest in pursuing legal damages. Adding the father would have cured Brandy’s statute of limitation problem.

The court emphasized that any such lawsuit relied on Brandy, rather than her father, in making the claim against Maryville. As Brandy’s father never pursued his claim within the two-year statute of limitations, he would be barred from assigning it to his daughter to pursue it, even if he intended to. The appellate court found that Brandy’s father, not Brandy, had the original claim and did not pursue it. As such, the relation-back doctrine could not extend the statute of limitations. Therefore, the trial court’s decision dismissing Brandy’s case was affirmed.

Brandy Pirrello v. Maryville Academy, Inc., 2014 IL App (1st) 133964 (Oct. 8, 2014).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury cases, medical negligence cases, birth injury cases and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bolingbrook, Bridgeview, Chicago (Bridgeport, Canaryville, Little Italy, Greek Town, Chinatown, Hegewisch, East Side), Addison, Antioch, Mundelein, Northfield, Lake Bluff, Winnetka, Wilmette, Winfield, Crete, Matteson, Blue Island, Chicago Heights and Schaumburg, Ill.

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