Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
Roberts v. Alexandria Transportation, Inc.
Roberts was driving a truck through a construction zone when he saw a flagger holding a sign that said “SLOW.” Roberts slowed down. The flagger suddenly turned the traffic sign to “STOP.” Roberts abruptly slammed on his brakes. Solomakha, driving a tractor-trailer behind Roberts, was not able to stop his tractor-trailer in time and rear-ended Roberts’s truck. Roberts’s injuries resulted in medical bills totaling more than $500,000. In Roberts’s suit for negligence, Alex (Solomakha’s employers) sought contribution against third-parties for their role in failing to maintain the safety of the construction site. E-K, the general contractor, settled with Roberts and was dismissed from the suit. Alex settled with Roberts for $1.85 million. Before trial on the contribution claim, the district court determined that Alex, Safety (E-K's subcontractor), and E-K must appear on the verdict form so that the jury could adequately apportion fault among every tortfeasor.The Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act provides that “[t]he pro-rata share of each tortfeasor shall be determined in accordance with his relative culpability” and that “no person shall be required to contribute to one seeking contribution an amount greater than his pro rata share,” with an exception where “the obligation of one or more of the joint tortfeasors is uncollectable. In that event, the remaining tortfeasors shall share the unpaid portions of the uncollectable obligation in accordance with their pro-rata liability.”The district court concluded that any share of liability that the jury assigned to E-K should not be reallocated between Alex and Safety and ordered that Alex would remain liable for E-K’s entire share along with its own. The Seventh Circuit certified the question to the Illinois Supreme Court, which responded that the obligation of a settling party is not “uncollectable” under 740 ILCS 100/3. View "Roberts v. Alexandria Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law
Steed v. Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, S.C.
On January 29, 2009, Glenn suffered a partial tear of his Achilles tendon. On February 17, Glenn sought treatment from Dr. Treacy at Rezin Orthopedics. Glenn was 42 years old and borderline obese. Dr. Treacy’s treatment plan included placing Glenn’s lower right leg in a plantar flexion position, set in a plaster cast for six weeks. Dr. Treacy memorialized his recommendation for Glenn to return for a follow-up appointment in two weeks in an invoice. Glenn required an appointment within a day or two for cast placement because he had driven himself to the appointment. Dr. Treacy directed the receptionist (Decker) to schedule a two-week follow-up appointment. Decker scheduled Glenn’s casting appointment for February 19 at another office. After Glenn’s leg was casted, the receptionist, Hare, scheduled Glenn’s follow-up appointment for March 13, more than three weeks after his initial appointment. On February 25, Glenn telephoned Rezin. The receptionist, Popplewell, rescheduled Glenn’s follow-up visit for March 12. On March 8, Glenn died of a pulmonary embolism.In a wrongful death and survival action, a jury returned a defense verdict. Glenn’s administrator appealed only the verdict in favor of Rezin. The appellate court reversed with directions to enter judgment n.o.v. in favor of the estate. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the verdict. The evidence supported a conclusion that Rezin’s failures did not proximately cause Glenn’s death. Glenn’s death was not a reasonably foreseeable result of Rezin's failure to schedule his follow-up appointment within two weeks of his initial appointment. View "Steed v. Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, S.C." on Justia Law
Gillespie v. Edmier
Gillespie was working on a dump trailer manufactured and sold by East and leased by his employer. It was loaded with mulch. Using the front cast iron side steps, Gillespie climbed on top of the trailer and lowered himself inside. After leveling the mulch, Gillespie crawled to the front, positioned his right knee on the aluminum cap, placed his left foot on the first step, and attempted to place his right foot on the second step. His hands slid off the top of the trailer, and his left foot slipped, causing him to fall off the stairs. He landed on his feet and felt a sharp pain in his back. He reported his injury before returning to work.Gillespie alleged that East is strictly liable for, and acted negligently in, designing, manufacturing, and selling a defective and unreasonably dangerous product that lacked adequate safety features; that East failed to warn consumers about foreseeable dangers from unsafe modifications; and that the product did not undergo product testing for safety. In a deposition, Gillespie's expert, Hutter, opined that the steps were defective and unreasonably dangerous; the spacing and width of the steps and the lack of side rails did not comply with the recommended practices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American National Standards Institute, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association.The circuit court granted the defendant summary judgment, ruling that OSHA does not apply to trailers, that industry standards are not mandatory, and that third-party modifications demonstrated that the trailer was not unreasonably dangerous when it left East’s control. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Hutter’s deposition testimony was sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the trailer was unreasonably dangerous. View "Gillespie v. Edmier" on Justia Law
Tabirta v. Cummings
Tabirta was driving a truck in Ohio, when another truck, driven by Cummings, collided with his vehicle. Plaintiff suffered severe injuries, including the amputation of both legs. Cummings’s vehicle was owned by his employer, GML. Tabirta filed a negligence action in Cook County. The defendants moved to transfer venue. Under 735 ILCS 5/2-101, venue is proper either in the county of residence of any defendant or in the county where the transaction occurred. Tabirta cited the Cook County home office of GML employee Bolton (a part-time account representative) and argued that GML was “doing business” in the county. Cummings is not a resident of Cook County. GML is a Missouri corporation with its principal place of business and registered agent located in Randolph County.The Illinois Supreme Court held that Cook County is not the proper venue for the suit. Bolton's work for GML from his home office, standing alone, does not establish that the home was an “other office.” GML did not “purposely select” a location in Cook County to carry on its business but selected Bolton, a person with extensive experience in the food industry. Even if Bolton’s proximity to customers played a role in his hiring, GML did not own, lease, or pay any expenses associated with Bolton’s residence. GML did not hold out to customers or the public that Bolton’s residence was a GML office. GML had no office or other facility in Cook County. Bolton did not sell products from his home office. The work he conducted from his residence was merely incidental to GML’s usual and customary business of food product manufacturing. View "Tabirta v. Cummings" on Justia Law
Berry v. City of Chicago
Named plaintiffs filed a two-count class-action complaint on behalf of “all residents of the City of Chicago who have resided in an area where the City has replaced water mains or meters between January 1, 2008, and the present.” The complaint raises claims of negligence and inverse condemnation in relation to the replacement of water meters and water main pipes, as well as the partial replacement of lead service lines that run between the water mains and residences throughout Chicago. The complaint claimed the city’s actions created an increased risk that lead will be dislodged or leach from the residents’ individual service lines. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of the complaint.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. The complaint did not allege that anyone is suffering from any physical impairment, dysfunction, or physically disabling consequence caused by the city's actions. An increased risk of harm is not, itself, an injury consistent with the traditional understanding of tort law. The plaintiffs have alleged only that the replacement of water mains and meters has made the proposed class members’ property “more dangerous.” The concept of “dangerousness” is not susceptible to objective measurement and, thus, cannot by itself constitute damage under the Illinois takings clause. View "Berry v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law
Hernandez v. Lifeline Ambulance, LLC
The Emergency Medical Services Systems Act. 210 ILCS 50/3.150, provides immunity from liability to an ambulance owner and its driver who "provides emergency or non-emergency medical services during a Department-approved training course, in the normal course of conducting their duties, or in an emergency," for acts or omissions in providing such services unless such acts or omissions constitute willful and wanton misconduct. Hernandez suffered bodily injuries when an ambulance owned by Lifeline and driven by Nicholas ran a red light and collided with his vehicle. The ambulance was being used for the non-emergency transport of a patient that had undergone dialysis at a health care facility. The complaint alleged that, at the time of the collision, Nicholas was not operating with his lights and siren engaged and was not responding to an emergency and that nobody on board was in the process of providing emergency or nonemergency medical services.The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the defendants were not protected from liability. Under the Act, ‘[n]on-emergency medical services” means: “medical care, clinical observation, or medical monitoring rendered to patients whose conditions do not meet this Act’s definition of emergency, before or during transportation of such patients to or from health care facilities visited for the purpose of obtaining medical or health care services which are not emergency in nature, using a vehicle regulated by this Act.” Nicholas’s actions in driving and running the red light were not integral or in any way related to providing non-emergency medical care. View "Hernandez v. Lifeline Ambulance, LLC" on Justia Law
Lewis v. Lead Industries Association
In a class-action lawsuit against former manufacturers of white lead pigments, the plaintiffs sought to recover the costs of blood-lead screening, which their children underwent as required by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (410 ILCS 45/1). The complaint excluded any claim for physical injury. The class was certified in 2008 as the parents or guardians of children who, in 1995-2008, were between six months and six years old and lived in zip codes identified by the Illinois Department of Public Health as ‘high risk’ areas and had a blood test for lead toxicity. The circuit court granted the defendants summary judgment on a civil conspiracy count, noting that the named plaintiffs had not established any economic loss because third parties, Medicaid and private insurance, had paid for the tests. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that parents are liable for the expenses of their children and that the collateral source rule applied.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Plaintiffs who do not suffer any economic loss cannot maintain a tort action that is based on a claim that alleges solely an economic injury and no physical injury or property damage. The plaintiffs were required to establish actual economic loss as an essential element of their claim of intentional misrepresentation, underlying the civil conspiracy count. The Family Expense Act cannot be extended to create a liability or expense where one never arose, to allow a parent to sue where there was no underlying personal injury claim filed on behalf of the child. As a substantive rule of damages, the collateral source rule bars a defendant from reducing a plaintiff’s compensatory award by the amount the plaintiff received from the collateral source; it is unrelated to whether a plaintiff has an actionable injury. View "Lewis v. Lead Industries Association" on Justia Law
In re Hernandez
In 2009-2011, Hernandez sustained on-the-job injuries and received medical treatment. In 2016, she filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and reported unsecured claims held by three health care providers to whom she owed $28,709.60, $58,901.20, and $50,161.26 respectively. She reported minimal assets: $1300 in bank accounts and her pending workers’ compensation claim, valued at $31,000. Two days after filing her petition, Hernandez settled her workers’ compensation claim for $30,566.33 without consulting the bankruptcy trustee. She believed the settlement was exempt under section 21 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/21). That statute provides: “No payment, claim, award or decision under this Act shall be assignable or subject to any lien, attachment or garnishment, or be held liable in any way for any lien, debt, penalty or damages….” The health care providers objected; the district court ruled in their favor.The Illinois Supreme Court answered a question of Illinois law certified by the Seventh Circuit: After the 2005 amendments to section 8 of the Workers’ Compensation Act and the enactment of section 8.2 of the Act, section 21 of the Act does exempt the proceeds of a workers’ compensation settlement from the claims of medical-care providers who treated the illness associated with that settlement or injury. View "In re Hernandez" on Justia Law
Ammons v. Canadian National Railway Co.
Ammons and Riley sued Wisconsin Central under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51, for injuries they sustained when the train they were operating struck another train. Both alleged Wisconsin Central was negligent in violating various rules and regulations, which resulted in their injuries. Wisconsin Central alleged that plaintiffs failed to exercise ordinary care and that multiple locomotives, railroad cars, track, and track structures sustained significant damage, which caused it to spend significant amounts of money to repair, perform environmental cleanup and remediation, and incur other incidental and consequential damages. Wisconsin Central sought damages in excess of $1 million.Section 55 of the FELA prohibits “[a]ny contract, rule, regulation, or device whatsoever, the purpose or intent of which shall be to enable any common carrier to exempt itself from liability.” Section 60 prohibits “[a]ny contract, rule, regulation, or device whatsoever, the purpose, intent, or effect of which shall be to prevent employees of any common carrier from furnishing voluntarily information to a person in interest as to the facts incident to the injury or death of any employee.” Plaintiffs argued that Wisconsin Central’s counterclaims constituted a “device” designed to exempt itself from liability to pay damages to injured employees, to deter railroad employees from providing information regarding injury or death of an employee, or both.The Illinois Supreme Court held that the counterclaim was not prohibited, citing the employer’s long-standing right to sue its employees for negligence, the statute's plain language, and federal court decisions. Unlike a contractual agreement or a release, a counterclaim does not extinguish a plaintiff’s FELA cause of action or exempt the railroad employer from liability. View "Ammons v. Canadian National Railway Co." on Justia Law
Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District entered into a contract with the Joint Venture, for the “Primary Settling Tanks and Grit Removal Facilities” project to be carried out at the Calumet water reclamation plant. Under the contract, the Joint Venture was responsible to determine the procedures and methods for the work and furnish all temporary structures and safety equipment and was responsible for the safety of all personnel on the worksite. The contract required the Joint Venture to submit plans for the work to the District’s engineer but state that the engineer’s acceptance of the plans did not relieve the Joint Venture of its responsibility for safety, maintenance, and repairs on the project. Andrews, a Joint Venture employee, suffered severe, career-ending head injuries while working on the project.In a suit alleging construction negligence, willful and wanton construction negligence, and loss of consortium, the District alleged immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/2-109, 2-201). The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the District was not entitled to summary judgment of immunity. The Act immunizes a local governmental entity from liability for injuries arising out of its employee’s acts or omissions while determining policy and exercising discretion. The District did not provide evidence that its employees made discretionary or policy decisions with respect to the two-ladder configuration that resulted in Andrews’s injuries. Seven witnesses testified that no District employees weighed in on worksite safety decisions. View "Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago" on Justia Law