Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fifth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair
County, the Hon. Stephen M. Kernan, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Defendant General Motors Corporation (GM) appealed from the order of the circuit court of St. Clair County allowing the motions of plaintiff, John Marotta, and defendant Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) for a new trial. Plaintiff brought this action against his employer, Conrail, under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C. sec. 51 et seq. (1976)), alleging that he suffered injuries as the result of Conrail's furnishing him with a defective truck tractor; or alternatively, that Conrail had failed to properly maintain, inspect and repair the truck tractor and its battery box from which he allegedly fell. In a count based on strict product liability plaintiff sought to recover damages from GM, the manufacturer of the truck, alleging that his injuries were the result of an unreasonably dangerous condition of the battery box which existed at the time the truck tractor left GM's possession and control. The jury returned verdicts on which the circuit court refused to enter judgment because they were "inconsistent and incongruous." The appellate court denied GM's petition for leave to appeal from the order granting the new trial (94 Ill.2d R. 306), and we allowed GM's petition for leave to appeal (94 Ill.2d R. 315(a)).
Plaintiff was employed in connection with defendant Conrail's "piggyback" operations, and on the day of the occurrence was driving a four-month-old truck tractor delivering trailers to several railroad yards. He had been assigned to this truck tractor ever since it was purchased. He testified that the truck had vibrated noticeably from the first day that he started driving it and that the vibrations had on occasion caused parts of the truck to come loose. A battery box which serves as a step when climbing up or down the rear of the truck would occasionally come loose. Plaintiff said that when he placed his right foot on the top battery box something moved under his foot, causing him to lose his balance and fall backwards. When he inspected the battery box he saw that the right side latch was undone and that the box had slipped from under the frame by which it was ordinarily held in place.
Conrail had cross-claimed for "total reimbursement and indemnity" against GM, and following trial the jury returned the following verdicts:
"We, the jury, find for the plaintiff, and against the following defendant, [Consolidated Rail Corp.]
We assess the plaintiff's damages, itemized as follows:
B. PAST PAIN AND SUFFERING $ [----]
C. FUTURE PAIN AND SUFFERING. $ [----]
D. PAST MEDICAL EXPENSES. $ [----]
E. FUTURE MEDICAL EXPENSES. $ [----]
F. PAST LOSS OF EARNINGS. $ [----]
G. FUTURE LOSS OF EARNINGS. ...