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Bargman v. Economics Laboratory

OPINION FILED JUNE 10, 1986.

OTIS L. BARGMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ECONOMICS LABORATORY, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. John Cirricione, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from an order of the circuit court of Will County which granted the defendant, Economics Laboratory, Inc., a new trial after a jury had returned a verdict for the plaintiff, Otis L. Bargman, for personal injuries received as the result of alleged negligence on the part of the defendant.

Evidence adduced at the trial disclosed that the plaintiff owned a tractor-trailer rig which he operated as an employee of the Chicago-St. Louis Transport Company. On the morning of August 28, 1982, the plaintiff drove his tractor from his home at Chatsworth to the defendant's manufacturing plant in Will County. The plaintiff upon his arrival at the plant hooked on to his trailer which had been loaded prior to his arrival and then drove the unit onto a platform scale located on defendant's premises. Plaintiff after stopping on the scale then exited his tractor in order to deliver certain papers to an employee of the defendant. Plaintiff's tractor was of the cab over engine type with the floor of the cab being 4 to 4 1/2 feet above ground level. It was necessary for the plaintiff to descend ladder-type steps affixed to the tractor. After both of plaintiff's feet had reached the ground and as he started to turn toward the front of the tractor, his left foot slipped off a concrete ledge around the scale platform causing him to fall off the ledge and onto the adjacent ground. The ledge was of concrete and was 12 inches wide. The ground was from 4 to 8 inches lower than the ledge.

The plaintiff suffered damage to the muscles in his leg and surgical procedures were required. Plaintiff was unable to work until April 1983. He worked from that date until he retired at age 62 in March 1984.

The jury found for the plaintiff and against the defendant and fixed damages at $135,000. The jury further found the plaintiff to be 35% negligent which reduced total damages to the sum of $87,750.

During the course of the trial, the following colloquy occurred during defense counsel's cross-examination of Robert D. Atkinson, who was one of the plaintiff's supervisors with the Chicago-St. Louis Transport Company:

"Q. Would it be fair to say that you'd like to see Mr. Bargman get some money from Economics Lab?

MR. WALKER: Your Honor, we have never asked for money from Economics Lab. The contrary is true. We have asked it from Employees [sic] of Wausau, their insurance company. We have never asked Econ Lab.

THE COURT: Sustained. The objection will be sustained. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm requesting you, and I'm warning you to disregard any statements that Mr. Walker has made with reference to who he's seeking money from. The lawsuit is entitled Otis Bargman vs. Economics Laboratories. That's all you need to know, and that's all Mr. Walker needs to talk about, and I'm admonishing you, Mr. Walker, to not bring that up again, and you may continue with your examination.

MR. WALKER: Your Honor, I would ask that you instruct the injury [sic] that we have never requested money from Econ Lab.

THE COURT: The lawsuit is entitled Otis Bargman vs. Economics Laboratory.

MR. WALKER: May I have a ruling on my question, your Honor?

THE COURT: Your request is ...


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