Law School Case Brief
Doe v. Calumet City - 161 Ill. 2d 374, 204 Ill. Dec. 274, 641 N.E.2d 498 (1994)
A motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a pleading. In determining the legal sufficiency of a complaint, all well-pleaded facts are taken as true and all reasonable inferences from those facts are drawn in favor of plaintiff. However, mere conclusions of law or fact unsupported by specific factual allegations in a complaint are disregarded on a motion to dismiss. On appeal, a reviewing court must determine whether allegations of the complaint, when viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, are sufficient to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted.
An intruder entered a woman's apartment at night where she resided with her two children. After struggling with the intruder with him threatening to rape and kill the mother and her children, the mother escaped out of the apartment screaming for help. After unsuccessfully trying to get the mother back into the apartment, the intruder went back in and locked the door behind him, where he then continued the attack against the children, including raping the daughter. In the meantime, the mother, clothed only in undergarments, then left the building screaming. Several neighbors, having heard the screams, dialed 911. When the officers arrived, the mother as well as several neighbor pleaded with the officers to break down the door, which they declined, allegedly stating that they did not want to be responsible for the property damage. Instead, the officers physically restrained the mother, allegedly prevented the neighbors from breaking down the door, and questioned the mother in a rude, demeaning and accusatory manner and asked inappropriate questions while awaiting a key from the landlord. After repeatedly buzzing the door, which the intruder did not answer, the officers ultimately entered the apartment through an unlocked backdoor, where they found the intruder raping the daughter.
Plaintiff mother and children filed an action against the city, the police officers, and the police department for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and liability for gender discrimination. The lower court dismissed the negligence action, which was affirmed by the appellate court. Plaintiffs sought further review in the state supreme court.
Did plaintiffs state a claim for relief based on the allegations of their complaint?
The Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed the part of the order that dismissed the children's action for negligence and reversed the part of the order that dismissed the other causes of action. The cause was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.
The Court affirmed the dismissal of the negligence action and reasoned that the children had not shown that they were under the direct and immediate control of the police when the injuries occurred. The court also found that the mother had stated a cause of action for emotional distress. The court reasoned that the police disregarded a high probability that his conduct would cause severe emotional distress. The facts indicated that the officer ignored pleas of the mother to help her children. Finally, the court found that the children had stated a cause of action under the "wilful and wanton" exception to the Tort Immunity Act. The court reasoned that this exception did not require the children to prove a special relationship.
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