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Van Cleave v. Illini Coach Co.

OPINION FILED MAY 31, 1951

JAMES ROBERT VAN CLEAVE, MINOR, BY ROBERT VAN CLEAVE, FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ILLINI COACH COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal by defendant from the Circuit Court of Champaign county; the Hon. GROVER W. WATSON, Judge, presiding. Heard in this court at the May term, 1951. Judgment affirmed. Opinion filed May 31, 1951. Rehearing denied September 4, 1951. Released for publication September 4, 1951. MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE O'CONNOR DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Rehearing denied September 4, 1951

Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the defendant was a common carrier of passengers in the State of Illinois and was in possession and in control of a school bus carrying students to the Dunham School in Champaign county, Illinois; that the plaintiff was of the age of six years; that for a long time prior to the accident in question children on the school bus engaged in various childish activities; that it was the duty of the defendant to exercise the highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of its bus in carrying school children.

The complaint further alleged that the defendant negligently and carelessly operated the school bus; negligently and carelessly failed to provide any other person than the bus driver upon the bus to manage and control the bus and to supervise the children and, as a result of such failure, one of the children ran into, struck, pushed and shoved the plaintiff.

The complaint further alleged that the defendant negligently and carelessly propelled said bus forward suddenly while one of the pupils was standing in the aisle of said bus so that said pupil was thrown forward and struck the plaintiff.

The defendant filed an answer denying the allegations of the complaint.

The case came on for hearing and the jury returned a verdict in the sum of $10,000, which was reduced by $5,000 by the entering of a remittitur of $5,000.

Defendant's motions for directed verdict, for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for new trial were all denied. Defendant appeals from this judgment.

Both defendant and plaintiff spent many pages in their briefs arguing the question of whether or not the defendant was a common carrier or a private carrier. The evidence showed that the defendant was engaged in operating interstate bus service, intrastate service, charter operations and contractual operations of school busses. The evidence also showed that the defendant had a contract with the school district in question for the transportation of pupils.

We do not deem it to be controlling whether the defendant was a common carrier or a private carrier, for it is our opinion from the facts in this case that it was the duty of the defendant to operate the bus with the highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of the bus.

We know of no previous decision in Illinois on this subject, but the degree of care required in the operation of a school bus was decided by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington in 1945 and reported in the case of Webb v. The City of Seattle, 157 P.2d 312, 158 A.L.R. 810. In that case the court said:

"In this connection it must be borne in mind that those who convey children to and from school must exercise toward them the highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of the conveyance."

We believe that this sets up the proper standard of care and that those engaged in the transportation of school children should be held to exercise the highest degree of care.

Plaintiff relies mainly on the allegations of his complaint that the defendant negligently and carelessly propelled said bus forward suddenly while one of the pupils was standing in the aisle, so that said pupil was thrown forward and struck the plaintiff.

The plaintiff testified that he was sitting on the bus when the bus stopped and Allen Campbell, a boy of about his age, boarded the bus. The following evidence then appears in the record, and the plaintiff is testifying in response ...


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