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Chalmers v. City of Chicago

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 17, 1980.

NANCY CHALMERS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE CITY OF CHICAGO ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DAVID CERDA, Judge, presiding.

MISS PRESIDING JUSTICE MCGILLICUDDY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from the denial of the plaintiff's post-trial motion in which she asked the court to enter a judgment conforming the verdict to the intention of the jury.

The plaintiff, Nancy Chalmers, was involved in an automobile accident with Edward Meany on May 22, 1973. Meany, a police officer for the City of Chicago, was driving a squad car at the time of the collision.

The plaintiff brought this action for damages against Meany and the City of Chicago, alleging that Meany had committed certain acts of willful and wanton negligence and acts of ordinary negligence.

In his closing argument the plaintiff's attorney reminded the jury that the plaintiff had incurred medical expenses in the amount of $1705.99. He also requested that the jury award the plaintiff $13,000 in damages for the nature, extent and duration of her injuries, for the resulting disability and for pain and suffering. The attorney made no reference to punitive damages.

A special interrogatory was tendered to the jury which stated: "Was the defendant Officer Meany guilty of wilful and wanton conduct which proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries?" The trial court instructed the jury that if it found that Meany was guilty of such conduct, it could award damages in "an amount which will serve to punish the defendant and to deter others from the commission of like offenses."

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. It assessed damages as follows:

"We assess the damages in the sum of $1705.99."

"We assess punitive damages in the sum of $13,000."

The jury's answer to the interrogatory concerning Meany's alleged willful and wanton conduct was "No."

The trial court awarded damages in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $1705.99. Because the jury expressly found that Meany was not guilty of willful and wanton conduct, the court did not award punitive damages.

The plaintiff filed a post-trial motion requesting that the trial court enter an order conforming the verdict to the jury's intention to award $14,705.99 in compensatory damages. In the alternative, the plaintiff asked the court to reassemble the jurors and poll them regarding their intentions, or to enter an order for an additur because of the inadequacy of the verdict, or to grant a new trial on the issue of damages only. Attached to the motion were the affidavits of 11 of the jurors which stated:

"[I]t was the consensus of all members of the twelve person jury that the Plaintiff should receive the entire amount of $14,705.99 for medical expenses, nature, extent and duration of the injury, disability resulting from the injury and the pain and suffering experienced, and we were confused by the form of verdicts furnished to us and were unsure of how to return verdicts in accordance with our agreement; that we were uncertain if we could request communication with the presiding judge to obtain clarification of the instructions on how to return a verdict allowing recovery for the Plaintiff for medical expenses and compensatory damages; that since we did not request clarification we placed the $13,000 for compensatory damages in the blank reserved ...


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