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Lewandowski v. Bakey

SEPTEMBER 26, 1975.

NAOMI LEWANDOWSKI, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN KEDZIOR, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

GARY R. BAKEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. JOSEPH T. SUHLER, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The administrator of the estate of John Kedzior, deceased, sued to recover damages arising from the death of the minor decedent who was struck by an automobile driven by the defendant Gary R. Bakey. Both negligent and wilful and wanton misconduct were alleged in separate counts. The court struck the wilful and wanton count and judgment was entered on the jury's finding for the defendant on the count charging negligence. Plaintiff appeals from the order striking the wilful and wanton count, and from the judgment on the negligence count. She contends that the evidence was sufficient to go to the jury on the issue of wilful and wanton misconduct and that prejudicial argument of defense counsel deprived the estate of a fair trial on the negligence issue.

We conclude that the evidence which bears on the question of liability does not create a triable issue of wilful and wanton misconduct and that the trial court properly removed that question from the jury.

The testimony showed that John Kedzior was about 14 years of age at the time of the accident on January 31, 1972. On that date at approximately 7:30 p.m. John Kedzior, together with two of his friends, entered Helm Street at its intersection with Sioux Street in Carpentersville and began walking in a generally westerly direction. Helm Street is a two-lane highway about 20-25 feet wide and runs in a generally east and west direction. It is a straight and level street. At the intersection of Sioux and Helm the speed limit on Helm drops from 35 to 30 miles per hour. There is a street light at this intersection and one further west at Delaware Street which is the first intersecting street west of Sioux on Helm described as "a long block apart."

There are no sidewalks on either side of Helm Street between Sioux and Delaware. On the north side of Helm Street there is curbing, although the grass grows up to the side of the street. On the south side of Helm Street there is a slough or swamp area, and bushes and trees grow close to the edge of the road. There is no pathway on that side of the street.

On the evening in question, the weather was clear and there was no snow falling. There was, however, snow on the ground, and there were patches of ice and snow on Helm Street.

At about 8 p.m. the boys were walking in a westerly direction on Helm Street side by side. John Kedzior was on the pavement of Helm Street and 1 1/2 to 2 feet south of the curb bordering the north side of the street. He was wearing a blue cap, jacket and pants and beige shoes. His friends were walking to the north of the curb. There was no pushing, shoving or sudden movement on the part of the boys and nothing had been said to John by either of his companions on the subject of his walking on Helm Street pavement.

As the boys walked west on the north side of Helm Street John was struck by an automobile which was also traveling in a westerly direction. The vehicle was being driven by the defendant who was a Carpentersville police officer with about 4 years of service. The car had its lights on. The driver did not sound his horn at any point prior to hitting the decedent.

The evidence showed that the accident occurred about 100-170 feet west of Sioux Street. As a result of the impact the windshield of officer Bakey's car was broken and John's body was thrown 5 to 10 feet north of the curb. John also lost one of his shoes.

There was testimony that the right front wheel of the defendant's car left a 66-foot skid mark, that the right rear wheel left a 39-foot skid mark, and that the left wheels of the car left no skid marks. The skid marks appeared entirely on the roadway pavement at all times and not on the curb or shoulder. There was testimony that the defendant's vehicle traveled a distance of four houses after striking the decedent.

At the close of all the evidence the trial judge struck the wilful and wanton count. The jury rendered a verdict for the defendant on the negligence count and answered a special interrogatory finding the decedent guilty of contributory negligence.

Plaintiff first contends that the evidence, taken in its aspect most favorable to the plaintiff under the Pedrick rule (Pedrick v. Peoria & Eastern R.R. Co., 37 Ill.2d 494, 510 (1967)) was sufficient to form an issue of wilful and wanton conduct for the jury.

• 1, 2 The traditional definition of wilful and wanton misconduct is conduct which is either intentional or committed "under circumstances exhibiting a reckless disregard for the safety of others, such as a failure, after knowledge of an impending danger, to exercise ordinary care to prevent it or a failure to discover the danger through recklessness, or carelessness when it could have been discovered by the exercise of ordinary care." (Schneiderman v. Interstate Transit Lines, Inc., 394 Ill. 569, 583 (1946); Klatt v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 33 Ill.2d 481, 488 (1965); cf. Hocking v. Rehnquist, 44 Ill.2d 196, 201 (1969).) The question is usually one of fact for the jury. A verdict may be directed on the issue, however, when the evidence viewed in its light most favorable to the plaintiff does not tend to show wilful and wanton conduct. See Scarlette v. Hummer, 41 Ill. App.2d 138, 143 (1963); Murphy v. Vodden, 109 Ill. App.2d 141, 149-50 (1969); Hatfield v. Noble, 41 Ill. App.2d 112, 117-18 (1963).

It is undisputed that the decedent was walking with his back toward traffic on the paved portion of the street and was wearing dark clothing; *fn1 that there were patches of ice and snow on the street, that it was a dark night and that the light from the nearest street fixture did not reach the area. It is also undisputed that defendant did not sound his horn at any time; that the ...


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