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02/12/87 Peggy A. Whitman Et Al., v. Thomas S. Lopatkiewicz

February 12, 1987




Before we reach the question of qualifications, we should first determine whether use of a reconstruction expert is appropriate in this case. Even if Mr. Gruber were duly qualified as an expert reconstruction witness, his sole function would be to impeach the credible testimony of the defendant. It is well settled that reconstruction testimony is inadmissible to impeach otherwise credible eyewitness testimony. As the court stated in Milton v. Britton (1974), 19 Ill. App. 3d 922, 929-30:


504 N.E.2d 243, 152 Ill. App. 3d 332, 105 Ill. Dec. 374 1987.IL.165

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. Robert D. McLaren, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE INGLIS delivered the opinion of the court. LINDBERG, P.J., and NASH, J., concur.


Plaintiffs, Peggy A. Whitman and Steven Whitman, filed a complaint against the defendant, Thomas S. Lopatkiewicz, alleging personal injuries resulting from a two-car accident. Defendant's motion for summary judgment was granted, and the plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

All parties answered interrogatories and gave depositions. Depositions were also taken of Thomas D. Knowles and Charles Gruber. All testimony referred to is from these depositions.

Plaintiff, Peggy A. Whitman, testified that the accident happened at approximately 1 p.m. She testified that the weather conditions were rainy, foggy, and misty. Plaintiffs' car had its headlights and windshield wipers on and was in good mechanical condition. Peggy's husband, Steven, and their infant son were passengers in the automobile. Steven was in the front passenger seat. No one other than Peggy, Steven, their infant son, and the defendant witnessed the accident. The accident occurred at the intersection of Army Trail Road and Old Gary Avenue in the village of Bloomingdale. Old Gary Avenue is a two-lane highway going north and south. Plaintiff was travelling south on Old Gary Avenue. There was a stop sign for the plaintiff. She came to a complete stop at the stop sign and had her left turn signal on. She did not see the vehicle being driven by defendant. She waited at the stop sign for more than 10 seconds for other traffic to clear. She then proceeded through the intersection, and, as the front of her car was at the median, the impact occurred. She did not see defendant's car at any time prior to the impact.

At the point of the accident, Army Trail Road is a four-lane highway with a raised median strip in the middle. Peggy testified that the speed limit on Army Trail Road was 45 miles per hour. She did not hear any squeal of brakes or honking of horns prior to the impact. Nothing obstructed her view of Army Trail Road. She had no idea at what speed the defendant was travelling. The first indication she had that there would be an impact was when she actually felt it.

Plaintiff Steven Whitman testified that he was looking west immediately prior to the impact. He did not look towards the east as the car was stopped at the intersection. He saw the defendant's vehicle a split second before the impact. He has no estimate of how fast his car was travelling at the point of impact or any estimate of the speed of defendant's car. He did not hear any sounds of brakes or horn prior to the impact, nor did he observe Peggy putting on the brakes.

Defendant testified that he was returning home after an Easter Sunday visit with his mother. He was travelling westbound on Army Trail Road at about 40 miles per hour, in the center westbound lane. He testified that the speed limit was 45 or 40 miles per hour. There was a light rain, but the lighting conditions were clear and sunny. There was nothing in front of him or to the side which would restrict his vision in that area. He was uncertain as to whether he had his headlights on. He did not know if the plaintiff stopped. He stepped on the brakes and slid into the plaintiffs' vehicle. He was going straight, the plaintiff pulled out, and the cars hit.

Sergeant Thomas D. Knowles of the Bloomingdale police department testified at his deposition that he investigated the occurrence. He had no specialized training regarding the investigation of traffic accidents. He did not have a good recollection of the investigation of this automobile collision. Officer Knowles recalled skid marks, but did not know how long they were. However, subsequent to refreshing his memory with his police report and photographs, Sergeant Knowles recalled that it had been raining and that defendant told him that the Whitman vehicle turned in front of him, that debris from the collision existed in the intersection, seemingly in the southerly westbound lane of Army Trail Road, and that skid marks of an undetermined length existed. Sergeant Knowles could not recall whether any construction was ongoing in the area or where the skid marks started in relationship to buildings existing at the scene.

Charles Gruber is a police officer and is the brother-in-law of plaintiff Peggy A. Whitman. He was the first person at the scene after the accident. He observed debris from the accident and skid marks. He could not give an estimate of the length of the skid marks. He did not look at the tires ...

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