Hospital’s Summary Judgment Denial Considered By Illinois Supreme Court

Timothy Clark suffers from Angelman’s Syndrome, a genetic defect. His parents sued a number of parties, including Children’s Memorial Hospital, for wrongful birth and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

While the Clarks’ first amended complaint was pending, Children’s Memorial asked the trial court for summary judgment. The hospital argued it should be given judgment because the Clarks’ complaint was filed after the two-year statute of limitations passed. The trial court denied the hospital’s request because, the court ruled, there was a question of fact about when the limitations statute began to run.

Eventually, the case came to a close after the hospital prevailed on a request to dismiss the Clarks’ third amended complaint.

When the case reached the Illinois Supreme Court, Children’s Memorial appealed the trial court’s decision to deny the summary judgment while the first amended complaint was pending. But the Clarks argued that the denial of a summary judgment request, generally neither final nor appealable, was not properly before the court. The Illinois Supreme Court disagreed because (1) the dismissal of the third amended complaint was a final order, and (2) Children’s had preserved the issue at each step of the litigation. Here’s how the supreme court explained it:

Ordinarily, the denial of summary judgment is not appealable, because such an order is interlocutory in nature. However, we have recognized an exception to this rule in certain circumstances, as when the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment and one party’s motion is granted and the other party’s denied. Because the order disposes of all issues in the case, review of the denial of summary judgment may be had … Our appellate court has similarly concluded that the propriety of the denial may be considered if the case is properly before a reviewing court from a final judgment and no trial or hearing has been conducted …

Here, the circuit court’s order dismissing plaintiffs’ third amended complaint with prejudice was final and appealable. Because the circuit court’s order disposed of all issues in the case, and because defendants have properly preserved the issue at each stage of this litigation, we reject plaintiffs’ argument that defendants’ statute of limitations defense is not properly before us and, in the interest of judicial economy, we review the issue. For the reasons that follow, we hold that the circuit court correctly found that there existed a question of material fact that precluded entry of summary judgment.

The Clarks lost the battle over whether the trial court’s summary judgment denial could be heard in the supreme court. But they won on the substance; the court ruled it was correct to deny the hospital summary judgment. The Clarks also prevailed on the other substantive questions: they were allowed to pursue claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress, and they were allowed to recover expenses for Timothy’s postmajority care.

Read the whole opinion, Clark v. Children’s Memorial Hospital, 2011 IL 10865, by clicking here.