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Bugariu v. Conley

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 17, 1981.

ADRIAN BUGARIU, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ROBERT D. CONLEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. E.C. JOHNSON, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MCGLOON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied March 23, 1981.

Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant alleging that defendant struck plaintiff and that as a result plaintiff sustained serious physical injuries for which he sought compensatory and punitive damages. At the close of all the evidence, defendant made a motion for a directed verdict, arguing that plaintiff had failed to prove a causal connection between defendant's act and plaintiff's injury. The motion was denied and the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff in the amount of $8,000. Defendant appeals from the trial court's denial of his motion for a directed verdict.

We reverse.

On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict at the close of all of the evidence.

On April 10, 1976, plaintiff Adrian Bugariu and defendant Robert Conley were engaged in vigorous electioneering at a polling place in Lansing, Illinois, where school board elections were taking place. Plaintiff claims that at 6 p.m. defendant approached plaintiff and with his right fist punched plaintiff in the left side of the stomach. Defendant unequivocally denies that he punched plaintiff.

Plaintiff testified that he instantly experienced a surge of pain in the stomach where he had been hit. Immediately, he called the police and reported the incident. Fifteen minutes after the police arrived, defendant told his friend Jerry Scherer, who had not been present at the scene of the alleged battery, that he had been hit.

One week after the incident, plaintiff visited a doctor in Hammond, Indiana. Plaintiff endured 3 days of testing on an out-patient basis to discover the cause of his abdominal pain. Twenty-three months later, plaintiff again sought medical attention. He complained of bulging in his stomach where he had been punched. In March 1978, plaintiff was hospitalized for 8 days. Exploratory surgery was performed and a direct inguinal hernia was found. The surgery relieved the lower abdominal pain which plaintiff claimed persisted continuously between the time of the punch and the surgery.

Throughout 1978, plaintiff claims he experienced upper abdominal pain. In late 1978, plaintiff again was hospitalized. Numerous tests were performed for the purpose of determining the cause of the pain. The record contains no evidence of the results of these tests.

In April 1979, plaintiff once again entered the hospital where he was treated by Dr. Peter Economu. Extensive tests were conducted. The record is devoid of any specific diagnoses or conclusions drawn from these tests.

Dr. Economu was the only expert witness to testify. He testified that after he had seen plaintiff twice and had run extensive tests, he received a telephone call from plaintiff's attorney, who informed him that plaintiff had been punched in the stomach approximately three years previously. Plaintiff's attorney asked Dr. Economu whether he could state the cause of plaintiff's injuries with a reasonable degree of medical certainty. Economu responded that "it is conceivable" that the blow caused plaintiff's injuries.

Two defense witnesses testified that they were present at the polling place where the battery allegedly took place. Both witnesses, one of whom stood only two to three feet away from and had an unobstructed view of the confrontation between plaintiff and defendant, claimed that the defendant did not hit plaintiff.

At the close of all the evidence, defendant moved for a directed verdict, arguing that plaintiff had failed to establish a causal connection between defendant's act and plaintiff's injury. The motion was denied. The jury found for plaintiff and rendered an award of $8,000 in his favor.

• 1 An essential element of a plaintiff's cause of action for any tort is that there be some reasonable connection between the act of the defendant and the damage which the plaintiff has suffered. (Prosser, Law of Torts 218 (3d ed. 1964).) The burden is on the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of evidence not only that the injuries exist, but also that they were the result of the occurrence of which he complains. (Hannigan v. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry. Co. (1949), 337 Ill. App. 538, 551, 86 N.E.2d 388.) The plaintiff must introduce evidence which affords a reasonable basis for the conclusion that it ...


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