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Presswood v. Morris

OPINION FILED MARCH 19, 1979.

GARY PRESSWOOD, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF STELLA SUE PRESSWOOD, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ENOCH MORRIS, INDIV. AND AS ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF GARY JOE MORRIS, DECEASED, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Washington County; the Hon. FRANCIS E. MAXWELL, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE GEORGE J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied April 18, 1979.

This wrongful death action arising from an automobile accident was brought by Gary Presswood, administrator of the estate of Stella Sue Presswood, against Enoch Morris, administrator of the estate of Gary Joe Morris. Enoch Morris, as administrator of the estate of Gary Joe Morris filed a counterclaim to recover damages from the Presswood Estate. In addition, Enoch Morris filed a cross-claim in his own name seeking damages to the automobile Gary Joe Morris was driving at the time of the accident. The jury returned a verdict for the defendant on the plaintiff's complaint, and found against the defendant on the defendant's counterclaim.

Subsequently, the cross-claim of Morris for property damage to his automobile was dismissed without prejudice on his own motion. Judgment was entered on the verdicts. Both plaintiff and defendant-counterclaimant appeal.

On April 22, 1973, at approximately noon, Stella Sue Presswood was driving a 1969 Ford Torino in a northerly direction along Radom Road. Her three children were in the rear seat of the automobile. Gary Joe Morris was driving his father's automobile, a 1970 Ford Fairlane, in a southerly direction along the same highway.

The two vehicles collided on Radom Road at a point approximately 1 1/2 miles south of Ashley, Illinois. At the point where the accident occurred, Radom Road is a two-lane, straight, level highway constructed of asphalt. It was wet due to an earlier rain. There was controverted evidence that there was a slight depression in Morris's lane just north of the accident site.

The accident resulted in the death of Morris, Presswood, and two of her three children. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.

Post-accident evidence indicated the Presswood vehicle was discovered on the east shoulder of Radom Road headed northeast with all but the left rear wheel of the car off the asphalt highway. There was a gouge mark approximately 14 feet long in the grass shoulder extending in a southeasterly direction from the pavement to the front of the Presswood vehicle. Although the photographs in evidence tended to support the defendant's contention that the gouge mark extended to the right wheel, plaintiff's evidence contradicted this.

The Morris vehicle, after the accident, was headed generally north, having turned approximately 180° from its initial southerly direction. Although the major portion of the Morris vehicle was in the northbound lane, both the left front wheel and the left rear wheel remained in their own southbound lane of traffic.

Since there were no eyewitnesses qualified to testify, the facts of the collision had to be inferred from the circumstances. The principal issue was which driver was over the center line of the highway when the collision occurred. Testimony on this point rested almost entirely upon the testimony of Dr. Harrison Streeter, an accident reconstruction expert called by the plaintiff, and Mr. Loren Ayres, an accident reconstruction expert called by the defendant-counterclaimant.

Appellant Presswood contends that the trial court erred in permitting expert Ayres to give speculative testimony and in receiving testimony of Ayres without proper foundation as to expertise or factual basis for the testimony. He also contends the verdict of the jury was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

Appellant Morris alleges that the verdict against Morris as administrator of the estate of Gary Joe Morris was contrary to the manifest weight of evidence, that the court erred in permitting two state troopers to testify as expert witnesses to the point of impact and in permitting Gary Presswood to testify to the whereabouts and intended destination of Stella Sue Presswood in violation of the Dead Man's Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 51, par. 2).

Two Illinois State Police officers who investigated the accident testified that in their opinion the accident occurred in the northbound (Presswood) lane, since the majority of the accident debris was concentrated in that ...


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