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Hammond v. United States Steel Corp.

FEBRUARY 21, 1968.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN C. MELANIPHY, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


Rehearing denied April 2, 1968.

Plaintiff sued for injuries sustained in a collision with a truck operated, maintained and controlled by defendants, United States Steel Corporation, Brada Cartage Company and Morris W. Shively. The collision occurred in the City of Chicago Heights when plaintiff's car, heading south, struck defendant's trailer-truck which had pulled out of a driveway of United States Steel Corporation on the west side of State Street making a left turn onto State Street. Defendants appeal from a jury verdict and judgment in the amount of $4,500 in favor of plaintiff, contending that their motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict should have been granted because (1) plaintiff failed to prove negligence on the part of defendants and (2) the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law.

Plaintiff's Testimony

At about six o'clock in the evening of October 27, 1958, he entered State Street at 26th Street, two blocks north of the scene of the accident. In the back seat of his car were his two grandchildren; his daughter-in-law was with him on the front seat. He was familiar with the area. He was wearing his glasses and his eyes were good; his windshield was clean and there was nothing to block his view of the highway — no hills, or curves, no building or trees. It was dark and the highway was unlit. Plaintiff was traveling south at between twenty and thirty-five miles per hour and at that speed he felt he could stop his car in eight or ten feet. When he first saw the tractor-trailer he was two or three car lengths north of it and it was crossing State Street at the time. After he saw the headlights he noticed the green and red lights atop the cab; this indicated to him that this was a tractor-trailer combination, and as he got closer he saw the trailer itself. The trailer was blocking both lanes; he tried to stop and swerved off the west side of the road to avoid hitting it; he struck the left rear wheel of the trailer which was extending into the driveway at the time of impact.

Plaintiff was seventy-two years old and sustained a broken jaw as well as injuries to his arm and his knee; it required twenty-one stitches to close the laceration of his lip and because of the injuries he was unable to plant his crops in the spring of that year and he still had headaches and dizziness.

Testimony of Plaintiff's Wife

She arrived a short time after the accident from her home three or four blocks away; her husband was slumped over the wheel unconscious; his car was off the road, the front being off by four or five feet and the rear being off by eight or ten feet. The tractor was facing due north; the trailer was ten or twelve feet north of the driveway of the steel company and was blocking both lanes at an angle across the road. The lights on the car were out and the trailer had lights but they were not lit. She testified that her daughter-in-law and son were divorced and that an unsuccessful attempt had been made to locate her daughter-in-law in order to obtain her testimony.

Defendant's Testimony

The evidence deposition of defendant Morris W. Shively was read into evidence. He testified therein that he was the driver of the truck involved in the accident; that it was a tractor-trailer combination; the trailer was forty feet long and nine feet wide and was carrying 24,600 pounds of structural steel. He said it was about six-thirty in the evening, it was dark but the view was unobstructed. Shively said:

I had lights burning on my equipment. Headlights, fire marker lights across the top of the tractor, Case marker lights on the side and in the back. Those lights are amber on the top of the tractor, amber on the sides and red on the corners. That is the sides of the trailer.

He stated that he pulled out of the United States Steel yard and out on the driveway leading to State Street, stopping six feet from the road; that he looked both ways and that he then saw plaintiff's car for the first time about one-half mile away. He stated that in order to make a ninety-degree turn he had to go off the shoulder of the road on the east side, then after doing so he cut back in and that the collision took place immediately after he had gotten on his side of the road; that defendant hit the back end of the trailer. He said that at the time of the accident he was going ten to fifteen miles per hour, that the second time he saw the car it was seventy or eighty feet away and that no part of his equipment was in the southbound lane. He said that the damages caused by the accident prevented his moving the truck and that when the police arrived fifteen to twenty-five minutes later nothing was moved.

Officer Overstolz's Testimony

Robert Overstolz testified that he was acting Police Chief of Chicago Heights, that the speed limit on State Street was not posted but it was about ...

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