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Commerce Bank v. Youth Services of Mid-Illinois, Inc.

775 N.E.2d 297 (2002)

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Commerce Bank v. Youth Services of Mid-Illinois, Inc.

Illinois Appellate Court

775 N.E.2d 297 (2002)

Facts

Youth Services of Mid-Illinois, Inc. (Youth Services) (defendant) was hired by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to find foster parents and to ensure that the foster parents complied with their obligations regarding monitoring of the foster children and with DCSF’s licensing requirements. Youth Services could instruct the foster parents on how to supervise the children and could visit the foster homes anytime. Additionally, Youth Services had an illegal policy wherein Youth Services conducted independent investigations of possible abuse before deciding whether to report the abuse to DCSF, rather than reporting all abuse allegations to DCSF as soon as the allegation was made. Other than this illegal policy, Youth Services essentially acted on behalf of DCSF, and the only responsibility not delegated to Youth Services was the licensing of foster parents and the removal of children from their home. Youth Services placed a three-year-old girl, Louise Osborn, and her brother with foster parents Sarah and Matthew Augsburger. One day, Louise died while in a closet in the Augsburgers’ home. Commerce Bank (plaintiff), the special administrator of Louise’s estate, brought suit against the Augsburgers and Youth Services. In a previous appeal, it was ruled that the Augsburgers were immune from any suit for negligence because they had parental immunity. Commerce Bank then sued only Youth Services for negligence and for the negligence of the Augsburgers under the theory of respondeat superior. The trial court dismissed the respondeat superior claim, and the jury found that Youth Services was not negligent in Louise’s death. Commerce Bank appealed, and the appellate court held the issue of respondeat superior should not have been dismissed. After a new trial, a jury found Sarah Augsburger negligent, thus making Youth Services vicariously liable. The trial court denied Youth Services’ motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Youth Services appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cook, J.)

Dissent (Myerscough, J.)

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