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Henderson v. Hudson

OPINION FILED JANUARY 5, 1984.

DOROTHY HENDERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

HARRY W. HUDSON ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson County; the Hon. Robert Howerton, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

JUSTICE KASSERMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Dorothy Henderson, brought an action against defendants, Harry Hudson and John Barnes, to recover damages sustained in a motor vehicle collision. A jury found that 95% of the negligence involved in the collision was attributable to plaintiff and entered a verdict in the amount of $1,155. Plaintiff appeals and claims that: (1) the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to allow rebuttal examination of an occurrence witness; (3) certain instructions were erroneously given or omitted; and (4) the damages awarded were inadequate.

It was stipulated at trial that on the afternoon of May 5, 1981, plaintiff was driving her car in an easterly direction on Illinois Route 13, which is a divided four-lane highway, and that she was approaching the intersection with Carterville Road within Williamson County. It was further stipulated that, at this time, defendant Barnes was also traveling on Illinois Route 13 in the same direction and vicinity as plaintiff and that he was driving a tractor-semitrailer owned by defendant Hudson.

According to plaintiff, as she approached the intersection of Illinois Route 13 and Carterville Road in the right-hand lane, there were two cars in front of her but the left lane was clear. Plaintiff said she observed defendants' truck in the left-hand lane when she looked in her rearview mirror, turned her turn signal on and then moved into the left lane of traffic in front of defendants' truck. Plaintiff testified that when she was several car lengths from the intersection, the traffic light turned red. Plaintiff's car stopped and defendants' truck struck the rear of plaintiff's car.

John Barnes, defendant, testified that he was driving in the left lane of Illinois Route 13 as he approached the intersection with Carterville Road. Mr. Barnes stated that plaintiff was driving in the right lane a short distance in front of him and that there were no vehicles traveling in front of plaintiff. According to Mr. Barnes, when he was about 50 feet from the intersection, plaintiff moved into the left lane without any signal and began to stop. Mr. Barnes said he blew his horn and applied his brakes but was unable to stop and, consequently, struck plaintiff's car in the rear.

Keith Bonnefield, who was an employee at a gas station located at the corner of the intersection of Illinois Route 13 and Carterville Road, testified that when he heard the sound of a horn, he looked up and observed plaintiff's automobile moving slowly in front of defendants' truck and then saw the collision take place. Mr. Bonnefield said the traffic light was yellow and that there were no vehicles in the right lane at the time of the impact.

After the defense rested, the trial court granted plaintiff leave to recall Mr. Bonnefield in rebuttal. Plaintiff's counsel examined Mr. Bonnefield regarding photographs of the area where the collision occurred and then attempted to examine him regarding a prior statement. Defense counsel objected to the inquiry as to Mr. Bonnefield's prior statement on the ground that it was "not proper rebuttal." The trial court sustained defense counsel's objection.

Mark Ross, another employee of the gas station located at the intersection where the collision occurred, testified that he saw plaintiff's car change lanes just prior to the collision. Mr. Ross said plaintiff's car pulled into the left lane in front of defendants' truck and proceeded to stop and that the truck sounded its horn and then collided with plaintiff's vehicle. Mr. Ross indicated that the traffic light was yellow at the time of impact and said that he observed no vehicles in the right lane at the time plaintiff's car changed lanes.

Roger Watkins, who was driving on Illinois Route 13 approximately five or six car lengths behind plaintiff's car and defendants' truck, testified that as the traffic light changed to yellow, plaintiff, with no one in front of her and without a turning signal, suddenly cut into the left lane and that the truck could not stop. Mr. Watkins stated that plaintiff's car was three or four car lengths in front of the defendants' truck at the time of the lane change. Mr. Watkins further testified that the traffic light was red at the time of the collision.

Among the instructions given to the jury were Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction (IPI), Civil, No. A20.01 (1981 Supp.), which sets forth issues raised by the pleadings when there are multiple defendants. The trial court also gave the jury IPI Civil No. A45.06 (1981 Supp.), a modified general verdict form applicable to comparative negligence cases. The trial court refused, however, to give the jury plaintiff's instruction No. 23, which stated:

"We, the Jury, find for the Plaintiff and against all of the Defendants and assess the Plaintiff's damages: for disability, present and future, in the amount of $ ____; for pain and suffering, present and future, in the amount of $ ____; for medical and out-of-pocket expenses, present and future, in the amount of $ ____; and for wage loss, present and future, in the amount of $ ____."

The jury found that the total amount of damages suffered by plaintiff was $23,100 and that the percentage of negligence attributable to the plaintiff was 95%. After reducing the total damages sustained by plaintiff by the percentage of negligence attributable to plaintiff, the jury's award amounted to $1,155.

• 1 Plaintiff asserts that "the diminuation [sic] of damages, attributed to plaintiff's negligence, is perverse, unreasonable and against the manifest weight of the evidence." In support of this argument plaintiff refers to the testimony regarding the collision and relies on the evidence that Roger Watkins testified that the traffic light was red at the time of the collision and that Mr. Barnes, the driver of the truck, was blind in his left eye. We conclude, however, in light of all the evidence presented, that the ...


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