Sovereign Immunity Doesn’t Deprive Appellate Court Of Jurisdiction In Veterinary Malpractice Case

Loman and Dodd owned a horse that required surgery. They entrusted the surgery to Freeman, who taught veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois. Freeman did the surgery as part of the training he provided for students at the University. Loman and Dodd alleged that Freeman performed an unauthorized procedure that ruined the horse for racing purposes. They sued Freeman for negligence and conversion. The trial court granted Freeman’s motion to dismiss.

Loman and Dodd appealed. Freeman moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. He argued he was entitled to sovereign immunity because of his teaching position with the state university. The Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court denied the motion to dismiss the appeal.

The appellate court ruled that sovereign immunity did not apply because Freeman’s duty to Loman and Dodd derived from the common law, which was not dependent on Freeman’s employment by Illinois. In addition, the state was not subject to liability as a result of the lawsuit against Freeman. “‘[T]he decision of [the university] to indemnify its employees does not deprive the circuit courts of subject-matter jurisdiction over claims otherwise properly brought in the circuit court.’”

Ultimately, the appellate court reversed the dismissal of the complaint, holding that the Moorman doctrine did not preclude the tort actions against Freeman. You can read the whole opinion, Loman v. Freeman, No. 4-06-0330 (12/15/06), by clicking here.

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