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Shanowat v. Checker Taxi Co.

APRIL 22, 1964.




Appeal from the Superior Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR A. SULLIVAN, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


This is an appeal by the defendant, Checker Taxi Company, from judgments entered against it on jury verdicts in the Superior Court of Cook County.

Angela Shanowat, as administrator of the estate of her deceased daughter, Elizabeth, and Beverly Shanowat, a minor, by Angela Shanowat, her mother and next friend, brought suit against defendant corporation and Ila Sanchez, an individual, on a cause of action arising from an unfortunate and unusual accident which occurred on August 20, 1955. On that day Angela Shanowat, together with her deceased daughter Elizabeth, aged eleven at that time, her nine-year-old daughter Beverly, a son aged fourteen, and a niece aged seventeen, entered a Checker cab and asked to be driven to 1254 Noble Street, the home of Mrs. Shanowat's sister.

The evidence adduced at trial shows that the driver of defendant's cab halted his vehicle across the street from the requested destination. On cross-examination he stated that he knew that the address given him was on the west side of the street, and that in order to reach a point directly in front of that address he would have had to have taken a route involving approximately an extra one hundred feet; but, he added, that passengers "sometimes complain very bitterly" when driven by any but the shortest route to their destination.

The evidence is conflicting as to whether the driver said: "Well, here you are," or whether Mrs. Shanowat stated: "This is it." The parties also differ as to whether one of the children, who were sitting on the "jump seats," opened the right rear door of the cab, or whether the driver reached across and opened it for them. Similarly, there is a conflict in evidence as to whether the Shanowat girls recognized some children playing on the sidewalk and became excited at their arrival. In any event, while Mrs. Shanowat was searching her purse for the fare, the two young girls and the teen-age niece got out of the cab. The niece was standing just outside the open right rear door. The driver, unable to pull to the curb on account of parked cars, had double-parked in the northbound traffic lane. As the Sanchez car approached behind the stopped cab, it slowed to about three miles per hour, and then accelerated and started to pass the taxi on the left, i.e., in the southbound traffic lane. At this moment Elizabeth and Beverly came out from in front of the cab and ran into the path of the accelerating car. The cab driver testified that he sounded his horn when he saw them running from a point at the corner of his right fender but that they continued running and were struck by the Sanchez vehicle. Mrs. Shanowat denied that the driver sounded the horn. Beverly testified that she and her sister walked to the front of the cab and, after looking both ways, ran. Elizabeth died in the hospital several hours later and Beverly sustained severe lacerations and abrasions on her legs.

Defendant has favored us with an exhaustive and comprehensive brief citing over two hundred cases in support of its argument that there were various errors of law committed in the trial court. We will discuss the points in the order presented.

First, defendant argues that plaintiffs cannot recover because the children had been discharged at a safe place and the carrier-passenger status had thus been terminated. It is conceded that a carrier owes a passenger the highest degree of care during the continuance of the relationship. However, the basic issue which must be decided is whether the carrier-passenger status had in fact terminated.

In 4 Blashfield, Cyclopedia of Automobile Law and Practice, § 2142, pp 18-19, the author states:

The relation ordinarily continues until the passenger has reached his destination and has alighted in safety or has had a reasonable opportunity to do so, as well as to leave the carrier's premises or the place at which he alights. However, with regard to the last mentioned qualification concerning a passenger's opportunity to leave there is ample authority for the view, especially with reference to busses or other motor carriers, that a person ceases to be a passenger as soon as he safely steps from the vehicle into the street or highway at a reasonably safe and proper place. . . .

The traveled portion of the street or highway, however, under present-day conditions can hardly be characterized as a place of safety, and a passenger deposited in the traveled portion and injured as a consequence may hold the carrier liable.

The rule has been applied that where a passenger is discharged in an unsafe place, the relation of carrier and passenger is not terminated until the passenger, in reasonable exercise of ordinary care for his own safety, has had a reasonable opportunity to reach a place of safety. (Emphasis added — footnotes omitted.)

The Shanowat children having been discharged into the street, we believe that the relation of carrier and passenger still existed and that the driver accordingly was still bound to exercise the highest degree of care. Rotheli v. Chicago Transit Authority, 7 Ill.2d 172, 130 N.E.2d 172.

Mrs. Sanchez testified that cars were parked solidly on the east side of the street. Mrs. Shanowat reiterated this but added that "the cars were not bumper to bumper." The cab driver testified that there were parked cars as far as he could see; that he stopped opposite a short space between two parked cars; that the door was able to swing open completely; and that there was about a foot and a half of space from the cab to the cars that were parked alongside. Even without affirmative evidence by defendant of safe egress to the east curb, the question of a "reasonably safe place for alighting" was for the jury.

Where the passenger alleges that he was injured after alighting from the conveyance, it is within the province of the jury to determine issues of fact with respect to the carrier's negligence in failing to provide a safe place for the passenger to alight, its negligence in setting down the passenger at an improper place . . . and other ...

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