In Illinois, the Fourth District Court recently issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s appeal of a trial court’s judgment ruling involving the voluntary undertaking doctrine. The plaintiff, the decedent’s father, filed a lawsuit against his son’s employer following a traumatic brain injury his son suffered after leaving the defendant’s bar. The decedent was invited to an event at the defendant’s bar and was ejected from the premises after becoming increasingly intoxicated. As the decedent left the premises, he fell and suffered fatal injuries from a traumatic brain injury. Amongst, other claims, the plaintiff argued that the defendant was liable because he owed him a duty of care under Illinois’ voluntary undertaking theory.
In response to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendant filed a demand requesting detailed information including the specific information regarding the time and location of the fall, the exact manner of the injury, how the injury resulted in the death, and the time and location of the decedent’s death. The court denied the defendant’s motion but ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint.
On appeal, the court parsed out Illinois’ voluntary undertaking doctrine. Under the doctrine, courts recognize an affirmative duty of care when a plaintiff proves that the other party took a voluntary undertaking. For example, this applies when a defendant undertook a duty to assist and did so with negligence. The law applies when a party renders services for the protection of another, gratuitously or for consideration, will be liable for physical harm resulting from their failure to exercise reasonable care. The doctrine limits the defendant’s liability to the extent of their undertaking.