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Buckler v. Sinclair Refining Co.

APRIL 4, 1966.

WILLIAM E. BUCKLER, SR., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

SINCLAIR REFINING COMPANY AND DONALD HARRIS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. AUSTIN LEWIS, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.

CRAVEN, J.

This is a damage suit for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident. The plaintiff alleged his injuries were sustained as the proximate cause of the negligence of the defendant Donald Harris while acting as the agent of the defendant Sinclair Refining Company. The trial court directed a verdict for the plaintiff and against both defendants on the issue of liability. Thereafter the jury assessed damages in the amount of $95,000. The defendant appeals and requests a new trial on the issue of damages. No issue was raised as to the trial court's determination of the issue of liability.

The defendant assigns the following errors as a basis for a new trial on the issue of damages:

1. Denial of an independent medical examination pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 17-1.

2. Failure to exclude a witness whose name was not furnished in answer to a specific interrogatory.

3. Evidentiary rulings relating to the question of damages.

4. Improper closing argument on behalf of the plaintiff.

5. Erroneous instructions on the issue of damages.

6. Excessiveness of the verdict.

Because the question of liability is not in issue a recitation of the facts surrounding the accident is not required. A detailed chronology of the pertinent pleadings and discovery practice, including trial and pretrial maneuvers, is important because of the underlying premise of the defendant's appeal. The defendant contends that the trial court permitted the plaintiff to manipulate the pleadings unfairly, avoid proper discovery, utilize improper evidence and prejudicial argument to obtain a verdict for manifestly excessive damages.

The complaint in this cause was filed on July 29, 1964. Count one alleged certain acts of negligence by the defendant Donald Harris, as agent of the Sinclair Refining Company, which proximately caused permanent injury to the plaintiff's person and loss of past and future income. The prayer asked damages in the amount of $750,000. Count two alleged wilful and wanton misconduct and sought compensatory damages in the same amount. No claim was made for punitive damages.

On August 18, 1964, the defendant filed certain interrogatories, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 19-11, requesting the names of all doctors who treated or examined the plaintiff after the accident, together with the total medical expenses to date.

On the same date the defendant moved, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 17, for the production of the books and records of the plaintiff, including income tax returns.

On September 16, the plaintiff answered the defendant's interrogatories, listing Dr. Charles V. Lair, a clinical psychologist, and Dr. J.W. Chambers, a dentist. Total to date medical expenses were stated to be $2,028.83. ...


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