Smith v. Defendant Driver and Corporate Employer

  • Illinois Appellate Court, Third District (original trial before Judge Garrison in Will County on May 7, 2010)06/28/2011
    Client: Defendant Driver and Corporate Employer
    Outcome: Defense Verdict; Verdict Affirmed on Appeal

Synopsis:

On June 28, 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, affirmed the judgment entered on May 7, 2010, in favor of Donohue Brown’s corporate construction client and the company’s driver.

The action arose from a multi-vehicle automobile accident on Interstate 80 in Frankfort, Illinois. The plaintiff, a 35-year-old unemployed male with a wife and children, was traveling eastbound when he collided with the defendant’s vehicle. Plaintiff contended that the defendant driver and the co-defendant negligently operated their respective vehicles in snowy weather conditions.

Presenting evidence that plaintiff lost control of his vehicle and side-swiped DBMS’ client’s vehicle, the defendants contested the plaintiff’s version of the accident. Further, the defense argued that the plaintiff was not injured in the accident.

The defense contested plaintiff’s injury claims with evidence that the plaintiff had suffered at least three separate work-related injuries to the same area of the spine that plaintiff claimed was injured in the automobile accident.

The defense also provided evidence that plaintiff suffered separate injuries to the spine years after the accident. The defense argued that many of the plaintiff's claimed injuries were caused by his pre-existing neurological and degenerative spine conditions. The jury returned a verdict for the defendants.

Contending that the trial court should have instructed the jury that police reports are inadmissible, the plaintiff filed a post-trial motion requesting a new trial. Finding no error in its instruction on this factual matter and concluding that the plaintiff had not established prejudice by the ruling, the trial court denied plaintiff’s post-trial motion.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that, in responding to the jury’s request to review the police report prepared in the automobile negligence case, the trial court abused its discretion by instructing the jury that it had all the evidence it was going to receive and to continue deliberating.

The appellate court disagreed. The appellate court observed that, during jury deliberations, a trial court is without discretion to provide the jury with a document that had not been admitted into evidence such as the police report.

Therefore, the appellate court held that the trial court had properly answered the jury’s question concerning the police report and affirmed the defense verdict.

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