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McCormick v. Kopmann

Citation. 161 N.E.2d 720 (Ill. Ct. App. 1959)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Woman brings two claims against two defendants that could have caused the death of her husband in the same complaint

Formal legal document that outlines the basis for which the plaintiff is bringing action against the opposing party.

, even though the liability of one of the defendants would render the other one not liable.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A plaintiff may plead two causes of action together in the same complaint even if the allegations are mutually exclusive or contradictory.


Plaintiff McCormick, wife of decedent killed after Defendant Kopmann’s truck crashed into his car, sues Defendant and three other defendants alleging two conflicting claims. The first claim against Defendant Kopmann alleged that Defendant negligently operated his vehicle causing McCormick’s husband’s death. In order to recover under this claim McCormick had to be free from contributory negligence. In the second claim against the two other defendants Anna John and Mary Huls, Plaintiff alleged that the two allowed Plaintiff’s husband to drink in excess before the accident, causing him to be intoxicated and as a result be involved in the deadly accident which killed him.


May a plaintiff plead mutually exclusive or contradictory causes of action in the same complaint?


Yes, a plaintiff may plead mutually exclusive or contradictory causes of action in the same complaint. Judgement of the lower court is affirmed.


  1. Under FRCP 8(d)(2) and the Illinois Civil Practice Act allows plaintiffs to plead in the alternative even if the claims are contradictory.
  2. Public policy weighs in favor of allowing alternative pleading.
  3. When a plaintiff files suit they may not know all the facts and it may not be clear who is liable for the injury, and this may last until trial.
  4. A plaintiff must be allowed to file a complaint in the face of these unknowns so long as they do not have knowledge of the true facts.
  5. Here, there is no evidence that suggests Plaintiff McCormick had knowledge of the true facts.
  6. Plaintiff was not required to choose one count over the other before trial. To require her to do so would defeat the purpose of alternative pleading.
  7. If Defendant Kopmann was concerned about confusing the jury during trial with the conflicting counts he should have sought severance but he did not so.

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