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Chicago Transit Auth. v. Yellow Cab Co.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Peter N. Kamberos, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied May 24, 1984.

Plaintiff Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) appeals from an order of the trial court dismissing plaintiff's suit to recover workers' compensation benefits paid to one of its employees as the result of injuries the employee sustained in a collision between a CTA bus driven by the employee and a Yellow Cab driven by co-defendant Yaacov Yaisch. Defendants had filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, alleging as an affirmative defense a release previously executed by the CTA. The trial court initially denied the motion but then granted a motion for reconsideration and dismissed the suit. On appeal the CTA contends (1) the scope of the release was limited to the claim for property damage resulting from the repair of the CTA's vehicle; (2) the release should be set aside due to a mutual mistake of the parties concerning its scope; (3) plaintiff's affidavits raised a material issue of fact concerning the intentions of the parties and therefore defendants' motion to dismiss should not have been granted.

We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

On December 6, 1979, a CTA bus driven by CTA employee Alexander Sparks was involved in a collision with a taxicab owned by defendant Yellow Cab and operated by co-defendant Yaacov Yaisch. The bus was subsequently repaired for $239.12. Two reports of employee injury from the CTA's files dated December 6, 1979, and December 7, 1979, indicate that the driver of the bus complained of a head injury. A workers' compensation claims file for Sparks was opened in December 1979 and medical reports were sent to the CTA's workers' compensation insurer on December 26, 1979, and January 28, 1980. Copies of all of these documents relating to the CTA employee's injuries were attached to an affidavit filed by Yellow Cab in support of defendants' motion to dismiss. The affidavit stated that the documents were correct copies of records received from the CTA during pretrial discovery.

On February 21, 1980, the CTA executed the following release:


I, Chicago Transit Authority residing at ____ for and in consideration of the sum of Two Hundred Thirty-Nine and 12/100 ($239.12) Dollars, lawful money of the United States to me, in hand paid by YELLOW CAB COMPANY receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, and by these presents do for myself, heirs, executors, administrators, remise, release and forever discharge the said party above named, its officers, agents, employees, successors and assigns of and from all, and all manner of action, and actions, cause and causes of actions, suits, contracts, agreements, promises, damages, claims and demands whatsoever in law or equity, which against the said party above named I ever had, now have, or hereafter may have or which my heirs, executors or administrators, hereafter can, shall or may have, for upon or by reason of any matter, cause or thing whatsoever from the beginning of the world to the day of the date of these Presents.

This release is made with an understanding of the nature of the injuries and of the possibility of injuries existing which may or may not be known to either party at this time and of any injuries or ailments that hereafter may develop; and contains the entire agreement and no verbal representations or promises have been made."

The document was signed by Marge Conway, a CTA claims adjuster. At the bottom of the document is the typewritten notation "S. Bowie # 7912 Y 0054." In one of the hearings below defendants' counsel stipulated to the court that Bowie was the name of the claims adjuster who negotiated the settlement with the CTA, "7912" referred to the year and month of the accident, "Y" referred to Yellow, and the four-digit figure "0054" indicated that it was a property damage matter. A personal injury matter would have been represented by a three-digit code.

The parties stipulated to the following facts. In consideration for the CTA's execution of the release defendant Yellow Cab gave the CTA a check for $239.12, stating on its face "For all claims against Yellow Cab Company and its agents" and "7912 Y 0054." Attached to the check was a rider stating "Pd losses paid" and "7912 Y 0054." The total amount of property damage claimed by the CTA in the accident of December 6, 1979, was $239.12 and prior to the execution of the release this represented the only claim presented to the Yellow Cab for injury arising out of that accident. "7912 Y 0054" was the designation of the Yellow Cab claim file for the accident occurring on December 6, 1979, involving a vehicle owned and operated by the CTA.

In opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss, the CTA filed the affidavits of two of its employees involved in the negotiation and execution of the release. In her affidavit Marge Conway stated that she was the CTA claims adjuster responsible for handling the property damage adjustment for the CTA resulting from the accident. At the time she executed the release she contemplated releasing only the property damage claim of the CTA, which was for the $239.12 expended to repair the bus, and no other claims or actions stemming from that accident. In the second affidavit James M. Hickey stated that he was the CTA claims adjuster who negotiated the CTA property damage claims arising out of collisions between CTA vehicles and Yellow Cab vehicles. He had customarily, regularly, and without exception negotiated these property damage claims with Yellow Cab claims adjuster Sylvester Bowie. In over 100 claims negotiated with Bowie only property damage claims were discussed, Hickey had never agreed to give up any rights or claims for injuries or damages other than property damage, and neither Bowie nor any other Yellow Cab agent had ever informed him that any release executed pursuant to their negotiations was applicable to any claim other than property damage claims. Hickey also stated that he had negotiated the property damage claim at issue with Bowie. Pursuant to regular practice the release and other documents were then executed by Marge Conway.

The CTA filed this complaint on December 1, 1981, seeking recovery of payments made to its employee, Alexander Sparks, in the amount of $7,794.95. That amount, paid as compensation under the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.), allegedly included compensation for 45 days of temporary total disability from December 6, 1979, to January 20, 1980. Defendants' ...

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