Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Lawsuit Applying the One-Year Deadline for Negligence Claims Against Local Public Entities

Jennifer Lee, 17, was injured during a physical education class at her Naperville North High School. Section 13-211 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedures states that when a minor is injured by a negligent act she will get two years from her 18th birthday to sue. However, in this case, Jennifer Lee was 17 when she was injured.

Section 8-101(a) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act imposes a one-year deadline for negligence claims against public entities. In the Lee case, Section 13-211 and another case, Bertolis v. Community Unit School District No. 7, 283 Ill.App.3d 874 (1996) where the plaintiff sued the school district and the school board a day before her 20th birthday were persuasive.

In the Bertolis case, Jennifer Bertolis was 15 when she was injured at her high school. She relied on Section 13-211 in suing the district and its board the day before her 20th birthday. In the Illinois Appellate Court’s majority opinion, it was stated, “Because the limiting provisions of the Tort Immunity Act are to be strictly construed against public amendments and the public policy of this state has long favored preserving the meritorious claims of minors, we hold the limitation period of Section 13-211 of the code governs this action.”

Based on the prior decisions and the law, a DuPage County judge dismissed Lee’s lawsuit. The case was appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District, which affirmed the decision.

In reaching its decision, the appeals panel stated that the Supreme Court considered Section 8-101’s one-year limitations. As applied to a medical malpractice action against physicians employed by a county hospital and against the county itself. The court, quoting Justice Benjamin K. Miller stated that Section 8-101 applied, reasoning as follows:

“In enacting Section 8-101 of the act, we believe, the legislature intended to protect a specific class of defendants, local governmental entities and their employees. Thus, in medical-malpractice actions against local governmental entities or their employees the focus should be on the defendants rather than the cause of action or the type of injuries sustained by the plaintiffs. . . Because Section 8-101 of the act is the more specific statute when considering causes of action against local governmental entities and their employees, we believe the one-year limitation provision of Section 8-101 of the act applies to actions against those defendants.”

Tosado v. Miller, 188 Ill. 2d 186 (1999).

“In this case, the decedent’s daughter, by operation of Section 13-212(b) of the code, was afforded an additional seven months, until she reached 18 years of age, before the one-year limitations period of Section 8-101 of the act began to run. Since plaintiff failed to add the decedent’s daughter to the action within that time, her claim is time-barred. This result honors the underlying policies of both Section 13-212(b) of the code and Section 8-101 of the act.”

In conclusion, although Section 13-211 tolls the limitation period until the plaintiff obtains the age of 18, Section 8-101 requires the action to be commenced within one-year thereafter. Since Lee’s lawsuit was not filed until one day before her 20th birthday, it was not filed timely and thus the judgment of the Circuit Court of DuPage County was affirmed by the Illinois Appellate Court dismissing the lawsuit.

Lee v. Naperville Community Unit School District 203, 2015 IL App (2d) 150143 (Dec. 14, 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury cases, medical negligence cases, nursing home abuse cases, automobile accident cases, bicycle accident cases and truck accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Melrose Park, Chicago Ridge, Burr Ridge, Hillside, Hinsdale, Countryside, Country Club Hills, Calumet City, Worth, Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Palatine, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Northbrook, Northfield, Glenview, Glencoe, Yorkfield, Villa Park and Franklin Park, Ill.

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