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Sumral v. Chicago Transit Authority

DECEMBER 13, 1965.

LILLIAN SUMRAL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND CORINA LUNSFORD, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. HERBERT C. PASCHEN, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE BURMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This is a personal injury action arising from a collision on June 6, 1956, between a Chicago Transit Authority bus and an automobile driven by Mrs. Corina Lunsford. The plaintiff, a passenger on the bus, was injured and brought suit against both the C.T.A. and Mrs. Lunsford. The jury, after hearing conflicting testimony as to the circumstances of the collision, found the C.T.A. liable to plaintiff in the amount of $10,000, but absolved Mrs. Lunsford from liability. The C.T.A. has taken this appeal from the judgment against it. Plaintiff has not appealed the judgment in favor of Mrs. Lunsford, nor has the C.T.A. filed a cross appeal.

The first contention made on appeal is that the verdict of the jury was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Mrs. Lunsford's version of the accident, which was corroborated by a passenger in her car, was that the bus struck the left side of the rear bumper of her car as she was proceeding east on Roosevelt Road at about 20 miles per hour. She further testified that the bus had been behind her on Roosevelt Road at all times. The bus driver, however, testified that Mrs. Lunsford's car struck the bus as he was closing the doors after having stopped to discharge a passenger at Spaulding Avenue; and that the bus was not moving when the accident occurred. The plaintiff testified that because the bus was crowded she was forced to stand on its front steps, facing the driver; that after the bus had stopped at Spaulding and had travelled a short distance, she heard a scraping sound on the right side of the bus; and that when she turned to see what was causing the sound, the door of the bus shattered inward upon her, injuring her.

[1-3] The C.T.A. argues that no other conclusion can be drawn from the testimony except that the left rear bumper of the automobile "sideswiped" the bus. In view of the sharp conflict in the testimony as to the circumstances of the collision, we think this was a case specifically suited to determination by a jury. Slater v. Chicago Transit Authority, 5 Ill. App.2d 181, 125 N.E.2d 289. In reaching their verdict, they apparently believed Mrs. Lunsford and her passenger, and not the bus driver. Our review of the record leads us to the conclusion that the verdict against the C.T.A. was not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Where a fair question of fact is raised by the proof, the Court on appeal will not set aside the jury's finding as being against the manifest weight of the evidence. Hilbert v. Dougherty, 34 Ill. App.2d 174, 180 N.E.2d 699.

The C.T.A. next contends that the attorney for the other defendant, Mrs. Lunsford, made improper remarks in the course of his closing argument which were prejudicial to the C.T.A. and which denied it a fair trial. At the outset, it should be noted that the plaintiff and her counsel were not responsible for these remarks, and that Mrs. Lunsford, the party whose counsel did make the remarks, is not before us on this appeal. In any case, the remarks which allegedly implied to the jury that the C.T.A. failed to call its bus passengers as witnesses, were as follows:

Now with reference to how this collision occurred. We had one witness, so to speak, who spoke for the CTA and that is Mr. Hill [bus driver]. Now no one, no one saw this car before the collision and that is including Mr. Hill, and I will get to that point, and that is including Lillian Sumral.

Now here is a bus. Here is a bus driver east on Roosevelt Road with a full load, a standing load, with people seated in the seats by the right windows of this trolley bus. And they are trying to put in the version that a car came to the right of the bus, squeezed in between the bus and that is how the collision occurred; and a full load, a bus filled with people and no one saw this car.

Mr. Denvir [counsel for C.T.A.]: To which I object, your Honor, as to a bus full of people.

Mr. Perrelli [Counsel for Mrs. Lunsford]: And — pardon me?

The Court: All right.

Mr. Denvir: He had an opportunity to call any witness he wanted to. This is improper argument.

The Court: There is nothing in the evidence on that.

Mr. Perrelli: Don't you think with all these people on this bus —

Mr. Denvir: Again, I object, your Honor. I believe you sustained my objection on ...


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