Bonhomme v. St. JamesAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff and defendant, both women, met in 2005 through a chatroom connected with a television series. Defendant, in Illinois, used her own name and aliases to communicate with plaintiff, in Los Angeles. One alias was that of a man, and a romantic relationship developed through the Internet, telephone, and mail. Defendant disguised her female identity using a voice-altering device. Plaintiff purchased airline tickets for a meeting in Denver, but her new “boyfriend” cancelled the plans. Plaintiff was informed that he had attempted suicide. In 2006 the two planned to live together in Colorado, but defendant subsequently informed plaintiff, using another alias, that the man had died of cancer. The deception continued for seven more months until plaintiff’s real friends confronted defendant and obtained a videotaped admission as to what had occurred. Plaintiff’s third amended complaint, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and seeking damages for the cost of a therapist, lost earnings, and emotional distress, was dismissed. The appellate court affirmed, holding that claims made in the previous complaint, but not incorporated into the third amended complaint, had been abandoned. The supreme court affirmed, holding that a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation does not apply to a personal relationship with no commercial component.
This Kane County litigation is before the Illinois Supreme Court at the pleading stage. No trial has occurred. The plaintiff and defendant initially met in 2005 through an Internet chatroom connected with the television series “Deadwood.” Defendant, of Batavia, used her own name and also aliases to communicate with plaintiff, who lived in Los Angeles. One of the aliases so used was that of a man, and a romantic relationship developed through the Internet, telephone, and mail. In telephone conversations posing as this man, defendant disguised her female identity by using a voice-altering device. A meeting was arranged in Denver for which plaintiff purchased airline tickets, but the new “boyfriend” cancelled the plans, and plaintiff was informed that he had attempted suicide. The pleadings alleged that this caused her great emotional distress and she began seeing a therapist. Plans were made in 2006 for the two to move in together in Colorado, but defendant subsequently falsely informed plaintiff, using one of her other aliases, that the man had died of liver cancer. Plaintiff alleged that she then became depressed and sick. The deception continued for seven more months until plaintiff’s real friends found out about it, confronted defendant, and obtained a videotaped admission as to what had occurred. Plaintiff alleged that she continued to pay for a therapist and had suffered a loss of earnings due to her affected mental state. In 2008, she filed suit in the circuit court of Kane County, seeking damages. Eventually, all of her claims were dismissed, and plaintiff sought relief in the appellate court.
The case emerged from the appellate court with both sides dissatisfied. The defendant complained of the appellate court’s ruling that plaintiff’s complaint count for fraudulent misrepresentation should not be dismissed. Historically, this tort has been confined to business or financial transactions, rather than personal matters. The supreme court continued that tradition here, stating that the facts alleged “are not the types of facts upon which a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation may be pled.”
The plaintiff, however, was also dissatisfied. She had originally pled a number of different causes of action which, she now argued, were still viable, while the defendant contended that, by this stage, those other claims had been procedurally abandoned. Plaintiff had initially also sought damages for six other torts, namely, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation per se and per quod, negligent defamation, and false light. These had all been incorporated in her second amended complaint, which had dismissed with prejudice by the circuit court. However, the circuit court’s dismissal of the fraudulent misrepresentation count had been without prejudice, allowing plaintiff to plead again. Plaintiff did so, filing a third amended complaint alleging a single count of fraudulent misrepresentation. The trial court ultimately dismissed this count with prejudice, and, in that posture, the cause reached the appellate court. In that forum, it was held that all the counts of the second complaint which had not been realleged or incorporated into the third complaint were abandoned. That ruling was affirmed by the supreme court here, because a party who files an amended pleading without incorporating earlier claims waives any objection to rulings on them. The earlier pleadings had, in effect, been withdrawn and review of the dismissal of the counts contained therein was waived.