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Bell v. City of Joliet

OPINION FILED APRIL 11, 1980.

SUSIE MAE BELL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE CITY OF JOLIET, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. MICHAEL H. LYONS, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE STOUDER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 12, 1980.

Plaintiff, Susie Mae Bell, initiated this cause by filing a complaint in the circuit court of Will County to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in a fall allegedly caused by the negligence of defendant city of Joliet in failing to maintain its parkways. A jury trial resulted in a verdict for defendant and plaintiff appeals.

Uncontroverted are the facts concerning the circumstances giving rise to plaintiff's injuries. On February 23, 1971, plaintiff went to the home of a friend to deliver a piece of birthday cake and parked her automobile on the adjacent parkway. Exiting the automobile from the driver's side and walking on the street to the rear of the automobile, she found a "shallow spot" in a parkway "standing full of water, gravel, cinders and everything" and crossed the parkway onto a sidewalk. After a brief visit, plaintiff walked on the sidewalk to the passenger side of her automobile, placed her cake and purse on the seat, and "looked for a safe place to get across" the parkway. Seeing a "clump or something like a large ash tray" in a puddle, she thought she could cross onto the street by stepping on the object. When she did so, the object slid from under her foot, resulting in the injurious fall.

At the close of plaintiff's case, counsel for plaintiff made a motion in limine to prevent defendant from offering evidence as to the illegality of parking automobiles on Joliet parkways. As the trial court denied that motion, testimony that it was illegal to park between the sidewalk and the curb was offered through the direct testimony of Officer Patrick Breen in the following exchange:

"Q. Now, in your experience as a police officer, is it legal or illegal to park an automobile between the sidewalk and the edge of a roadway?

MR. LINDERMUTH: Objection, your honor.

THE COURT: I'll overrule it.

THE WITNESS: It's illegal, yes.

MR. MONAHAN: No further questions YOu [sic] may cross examine."

On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred in denying the motion in limine and admitting the testimony of Officer Breen.

Considering first the denial of the motion in limine, we note the nature of the trial court's determination:

"There are logically two steps involved in a circuit court's ruling upon a motion in limine. The first is for the circuit court to decide whether, as the moving party asserts, the rules of evidence require exclusion of the subject matter of the motion. If they do not, the motion must be denied. If, however, evidential rules require the exclusion of this evidence, the circuit court has discretion to grant the motion and to enter an order before trial excluding the evidence, or to deny the motion and to leave to the moving party the procedure of objecting to the evidence when it is offered at trial. See People v. Van Riper, 127 Ill. App.2d 394, 398, 262 N.E.2d 141, 144." (Department of Public Works & Buildings v. Roehrig (1976), 45 Ill. App.3d 189, 195, 359 N.E.2d 752, 759.)

Accordingly, we first consider the trial court's application of the rules of evidence.

Plaintiff's motion was based on the contention that evidence of the illegality of parking an automobile on the parkway was irrelevant to any issue in this case. Defendant sought to introduce the evidence to establish that the condition of the parkway was the result of an activity proscribed by the city. It argues that evidence of a prohibition which might prevent defective conditions from arising would tend to ...


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