Monday, December 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Home Insurers Cornered on Woman’s Overdose

(CN) - A man who says his daughter overdosed after someone drugged and date-raped her can sue the insurers of the home where she died, an Illinois appeals court ruled.

Haley Johnson, 21, was out with friends in May 2012 when they met Joshua Skolnik, who bought them all drinks, according to the ruling, which merely summarizes the allegations put forward by Johnson's father. There is no indication that Skolnik faced criminal charges over Johnson's death.

The father said Johnson was alone with Skolnik two hours later after her friends had left. She allegedly told him that she thought "something" had been put into her drink, and she had trouble walking.

Skolnick took Johnson to his parents' home, where he lived, and he and Johnson had sex in his bedroom.

The next morning, Skolnik's mother checked on him, and he said Johnson had passed out in his bedroom.

Two of Johnson's friends came to the home to check on her between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., but Skolnik would not let them see her.

Skolnik told his parents later that after that Johnson was still unconscious, and they went out to dinner. He called his parents at 10 p.m. to report that Johnson was cold to the touch.

They told him to call 911, and police arrived to find that Johnson was not breathing. She was pronounced dead at the Skolniks' home at 11:31 p.m.

The autopsy showed that Johnson had died of methadone intoxication. Johnson's father says a pair of "date-rape" drugs were also found in her blood.

He sued Skolnik and the man's parents, asserting claims of wrongful death, false imprisonment, battery and civil conspiracy.

He alleged that the Skolniks failed to call 911 within a reasonable period of time and improperly stored methadone in their home.

Allied Property and Casualty Insurance Co. asked the trial court for a declaration that it was not liable for the lawsuit because of the controlled-substances exclusion in its homeowners' policy with the Skolniks.

The trial court granted Allied's motion for summary judgment, but the Chicago-based First District of Illinois Appellate Court reversed on Feb. 23.

Because issues of fact remain about how Johnson died, the trial court should not have used the "drastic method" of summary judgment, the ruling states.

"The four corners of the complaint contain details that, if true, describe a lengthy and protracted period of time during which Skolnik could have sought assistance," Justice Michael Hyman wrote for a three-judge panel. "The unknown is whether Johnson would have died if Skolnik had allowed Johnson's friends to see her or call 911 or truthfully informed his parents earlier about Johnson's condition."

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.