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Summit Tp. Road Dist. v. Hayes Freight Lines

NOVEMBER 8, 1963.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Effingham County; the Hon. F.R. DOVE, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded. HOFFMAN, JUSTICE.

Rehearing denied December 30, 1963.

This action was brought to recover damages to a bridge owned by plaintiff. The bridge was destroyed when defendant's truck, by reason of its weight, caused the bridge to collapse.

On the evening of December 11, 1961 the defendant Anderson was driving defendant Hayes Freight Lines' truck and trailer with a load of steel bars proximating 24 tons on a run from Cleveland to St. Louis. The night was dark and foggy. It was raining. After a rest stop, defendant Anderson, while attempting to get on a new interstate road, mistakingly turned down a township road rather than the interstate's approach. Anderson soon realized he was not on the road he intended and stopped to inquire from a farm resident as to his whereabouts. Though he was advised to turn around, he proceeded along this township road until he arrived at the bridge in question. Seeing the bridge, he stopped, looked at the bridge from the cab of his truck, and decided to proceed across. As his tractor and trailer came upon the main span of the bridge, it gave way.

This bridge, under the provisions of the Illinois Highway Code (Ill Rev Stats 1961, c 121, § 2-202) was a part of what was called the "Old Shumway Road." Pursuant to Section 134(c) of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways (Ill Rev Stats 1961, c 95 1/2, § 231) this road had been limited to a weight of 3 tons by a proper resolution of the local authority. Pursuant to this resolution the local authority procured a sign which stated "Load Limit 3 Tons," and erected it at the entrance to the Old Shumway Road approximately 1,000 feet from the bridge. No other sign, along the road nor on or near the bridge, advised the traveling public of the weight limitation. The Old Shumway Road commenced at a country intersection and ran westerly therefrom. The sign was erected immediately west of this intersection, actually about 50 feet west of the west line of the intersecting road, and anyone using this road, including the defendant, could not get to the bridge without passing this sign.

The plaintiff's principal basis for seeking recovery in this action rests upon the claim that the defendant by virtue of his violation of the weight restriction upon this highway became liable for the damages which ensued.

The defendant's answer is that the plaintiff failed to properly post the bridge and the road with adequate signs to warn the traveling public of the weight limitation imposed.

The very able trial judge in an exhaustive opinion determined that the defendant was in fact at fault and "assumed the risk incident to the use he made of the bridge," but held in favor of the defendant on the grounds that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The trial judge stated, "It was the duty of plaintiff to properly warn the traveling public of the limitations of this highway. It failed to do so by failing to post this highway and bridge as provided by law and . . . its failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent damage to its own property, precludes it from recovering in this action."

This appeal arises from the judgment entered for defendant.

Involved in the decision of this case are the following sections of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways:

Section 134(c): "Local authorities with respect to highways under their jurisdiction may also, by ordinance or resolution, prohibit the operation of trucks or other commercial vehicles, or may impose limitations as to the weight thereof, on designated highways, which prohibitions and limitations shall be designated by appropriate signs placed on such highways."

Section 135(a): "Any person driving any vehicle, object, or contrivance upon any highway or highway structure is liable for all damage which the highway or structure may sustain as a result of any illegal operation, driving or moving of such vehicle, . . ."

Section 26(b): "No ordinance or regulation . . . shall be effective until signs giving notice of such local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrances to the highway or part thereof affected as may be most appropriate."

Section 28: "The Department shall adopt a manual and specifications for a uniform system of traffic-control devices consistent with the provisions of this Act for use upon highways within this State."

Section 30: "Local authorities in their respective maintenance jurisdiction shall place and maintain such traffic-control devices upon highways under their maintenance jurisdiction as may be required to indicate and carry out the provisions of this Act, and local traffic ordinances or to regulate, warn or guide traffic. All such ...

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