Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed May 19, 2011



No. 110724     Bell v. Hutsell

Appellate citation: 402 Ill. App. 3d 654.


      JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.


      This civil suit is before the supreme court pursuant to the dismissal of a complaint. No trial has occurred.

      In October of 2006, 18-year-old Daniel Bell was killed when he drove his vehicle into a tree in Deerfield. It was alleged that he was intoxicated. His mother brought this action in the circuit court of Lake County, seeking to recover damages from the parents of a high school friend of the decedent, at whose home a party had been going on just before the accident. Underage drinking at that party was alleged. The circuit court dismissed the entire action with prejudice, but the appellate court held that the first three counts of the complaint could stand. These alleged a theory of a voluntary undertaking on the part of the friend’s parents. Those defendants appealed to the supreme court.

      The facts set forth in the complaint alleged that defendant parents intended to prohibit underage possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages at the party at their house and conveyed this to their own son. However, neither he nor they conveyed this to anyone else, and the parents took no affirmative steps to carry out their expressed intention. The defendants, thus, failed to follow through on an expressed intent to act which might have prevented the decedent from driving away intoxicated. No one changed position or acted in reliance on what defendants did or failed to do.

      Referring to the Restatement (Second) of Torts, the supreme court held that the facts alleged in the complaint failed to show that the defendants had undertaken a duty pursuant to which they could be held liable. The voluntary-undertaking counts were properly dismissed.