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Caley v. Manicke

OPINION FILED MARCH 23, 1962.

CHARLES CALEY, APPELLEE,

v.

DANIEL MANICKE, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Appellate Court for the Second District; — heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. CHARLES G. SEIDEL, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE HOUSE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 23, 1962.

After a jury trial in the circuit court of Kane County, the plaintiff, Charles Caley, received a verdict and judgment of $20,000 against Daniel Manicke, defendant, for personal injuries allegedly suffered in a rear-end collision between their automobiles. The Appellate Court for the Second District affirmed the judgment, (Caley v. Manicke, 29 Ill. App.2d 323,) but has granted a certificate of importance permitting defendant to appeal to this court as provided in section 75(2)(a) of the Civil Practice Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1959, chap. 110, par. 75(2)(a).

The important question presented for determination is whether the scope of proper jury argument permits the use of a mathematical formula from which counsel may argue that his client should be awarded a specific sum per day, or other fixed unit of time, for pain and suffering. With one justice vigorously dissenting, the Appellate Court in this instance concluded that argument of such character was proper. Even more recently in Jensen v. Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Co. 31 Ill. App.2d 198, (see dissenting opinion and additional opinion of the majority specially and partially concurring in the dissent,) an Appellate Court for the First District reached the same conclusion, but in Brant v. Wabash Railroad Co. 31 Ill. App.2d 337, a contrary result, to some degree at least, appears to have been reached by the Appellate Court for the Fourth District. Insofar as this court is concerned, the issue is one of first impression.

The practice of counsel explaining to the jury a formula and suggested figures to arrive at a suggested amount of money for pain and suffering, is one that has come to the attention of reviewing courts in only recent years. The courts that have passed on the propriety of such argument are sharply divided on the result reached. We have carefully examined the cases which permit the use of a formula and suggested figures in argument (see e.g., Yates v. Wenk (1961), 363 Mich., 311, 109 N.W.2d 828; McLaney v. Turner (1958), 267 Ala. 588, 104 So.2d 315; Ratner v. Arrington (Fla. App. 1959), Ill So.2d 82; Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co. v. Mattingly (Ky. 1960), 339 S.W.2d 155; 4-County Electric Power Assn. v. Clardy (1954), 221 Miss. 403, 73 So.2d 144; Continental Bus System, Inc. v. Toombs, (Tex. Civ. App. 1959), 325 S.W.2d 153,) those which deny the use of a formula and suggested figures in argument (see e.g., Botta v. Brunner (1958), 26 N.J. 82, 138 A.2d 713; Affett v. Milwaukee & Suburban Transit Corp. (1960), 11 Wis.2d 604, 106 N.W.2d 274; Faught v. Washam (Mo. 1959), 329 S.W.2d 588; Certified T.V. & Appliance Co. v. Harrington (1959), 201 Va. 109, 109 S.E.2d 126; Crum v. Ward (W. Va. 1961), 122 S.E.2d 18,) and those which commit the matter to the discretion of the trial judge. (Johnson v. Brown (1959), 75 Nev. 437, 345 P.2d 754; Jones v. Hogan (1960), 56 Wn.2d 23, 351 P.2d 153.) While the question is a close one, as evidenced by the divergence of opinion on the matter, we feel that such technique transcends the bounds of proper argument.

Those courts that have allowed counsel to use a formula and figures in argument generally do so because they feel (1) that a jury's determination of reasonable compensation for pain and suffering is arrived at by "a blind guess" and (2) that the jury needs to be guided by some reasonable and practical consideration. We do not take such a dim view of the jury's reasoning processes.

Pain and suffering have no commercial value to which a jury can refer in determining what monetary allowance should be given to a plaintiff for the pain and suffering he has experienced and is reasonably certain to experience in the future. This determination, like many others that a jury must make, is left to its conscience and judgment. While a jury cannot translate pain and suffering into monetary units with the precision that it would employ in converting feet into inches, we do not believe that its determination of reasonable compensation for pain and suffering can be characterized as a "blind guess." To reduce the aggregate into hours and minutes, and then multiply by the number of time units involved produces an illusion of certainty, but it is only an illusion, for there is no more precision in the one case than in the other. A determination reached by a subjective process which is easier to comprehend than to define and upon which just and wise men may not agree does not indicate that it is a "blind guess." The divergence of opinion among the many able jurists who have fully and thoroughly considered the very issue here presented illustrates the point.

It begs the question to say that the jury needs to be guided by some reasonable and practical consideration. A formula by definition is a "conventional rule or method for doing something, especially when used, applied, or repeated without thought." (Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, 2 ed. (1958).) It would appear that a formula, rather than encouraging reasonable and practical consideration, would tend to discourage such consideration.

Furthermore, even if the presentation of a formula and figures were permitted for purposes of illustration, the contention that the court's instruction would dispel their use by the jury as evidence ignores human nature. (See Allendorf v. Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Co. 8 Ill.2d 164, 173.) Nor would the fact that opposing counsel could use his own formula and figures remedy the situation because this would only emphasize the improper argument and would further mislead the jury into relying on the formulae and figures rather than the actual evidence of damages.

Jurors are as familiar with pain and suffering and with money as are counsel. We are of the opinion that an impartial jury which has been properly informed by the evidence and the court's instructions will, by the exercise of its conscience and sound judgment, be better able to determine reasonable compensation than it would if it were subjected to expressions of counsels' partisan conscience and judgment on the matter.

We recognize that in Graham v. Mattoon City Railway Co. 234 Ill. 483 (1909), this court, without discussion, stated: "We do not think that there is any valid objection to counsel, in argument, telling the jury what, under the evidence, counsel considers a fair compensation for the injuries received." 234 Ill. 483, 491.) Since that time it has been the accepted practice and custom for counsel to suggest a total monetary award for pain and suffering. Because of this and because we consider such practice far less misleading than the argument of a mathematical formula, we do not by this opinion find such practice to be improper argument.

Defendant also complains of the use of a chart by plaintiff's counsel in closing argument. As is shown in greater detail by the opinion of the Appellate Court, (29 Ill. App.2d 323) plaintiff's counsel, over repeated objections, was permitted to make up a chart as his closing argument progressed, whereon he listed each element of claimed damage and placed adjacent thereto the specific sums, actual in some instances and suggested in others, for which he was arguing. The chart, as such, did not go to the jury room. Although it was not a part of the evidence, it was properly made a part of the record for our review. People v. Fisher, 340 Ill. 216.

We feel that the method of preparing the chart and the chart itself, except for those portions reflecting the mathematical formula for pain and suffering, were proper as mere illustration of counsel's argument. Obviously all methods and means which the ingenuity of counsel may produce for the purpose of illustrating an otherwise proper argument cannot be considered at this time. The method and means here used showed the jury nothing more than it heard.

Defendant further contends that the trial court erred in striking evidence of plaintiff's prior and subsequent accidents, and in the giving of certain instructions to the jury. Neither contention need be considered in detail. The first was fully and correctly resolved by the Appellate Court and we adopt its views in such regard; since a new trial ...


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