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05/29/87 Regina Hamman Lindenmier v. the City of Rockford Et Al

May 29, 1987

REGINA HAMMAN LINDENMIER ET AL., MINORS, BY THEIR FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, GILBERT LINDENMIER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS

v.

THE CITY OF ROCKFORD ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

508 N.E.2d 1201, 156 Ill. App. 3d 76, 108 Ill. Dec. 624 1987.IL.722

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. John Sype, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE UNVERZAGT delivered the opinion of the court. DUNN and INGLIS, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE UNVERZAGT

Plaintiffs, Regina Hamman Lindenmier and Elizabeth Lindenmier by their father and next friend, Gilbert Lindenmier, and Wilma Lindenmier, appeal from the judgment of the circuit court of Winnebago County granting summary judgment for the defendants, the city of Rockford (the city) and Rockford Blacktop Construction Company and Rockford Electric Power, Inc., d/b/a Rockford Electric Power Contractors (Rockford Blacktop). The minor plaintiffs' father originally brought suit against the city for injuries sustained while they were passengers in a car driven by their mother, Wilma Lindenmier, which was involved in an accident with another vehicle allegedly caused by malfunctioning left-turn traffic arrow signals. Gilbert Lindenmier sought to recover for medical expenses in one count of that suit, as well. Wilma Lindenmier then brought suit in negligence against the city, and all the above-named plaintiffs then brought suit against Rockford Blacktop for negligence and products liability. The cases were consolidated in the trial court. In each, the complaint alleged that on October 19, 1982, and for some time prior thereto, the traffic control signals at the intersection of 11th Street and Samuelson Road in Rockford "were not operating properly and were defective in that they permitted or directed a left-hand turn to be made from southbound 11th Street onto eastbound Samuelson Road while at that same time permitting northbound traffic traveling upon 11th Street in a northerly direction approaching said intersection from the south, to proceed into and through the intersection." It was alleged that the plaintiffs' injuries were the direct and proximate result of the negligence of the city in not repairing and/or not maintaining the signals in their proper operable condition and of the defective condition of the signals which caused them to be unreasonably hazardous to persons using such lights.

When it granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment, the trial court found as a matter of law that the condition of the signal lights had nothing to do with the accident and that no alleged act or omission of these defendants with respect to the traffic signals was a proximate cause of the collision. Plaintiffs appealed after their motion to reconsider was denied, and we sua sponte consolidated the appeals into one.

At the outset, we note plaintiffs' brief is not in conformity with Supreme Court Rule 341 (103 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(6)) in that its statement of facts, which was filed separately 12 days after its brief, contains a majority of incorrect page references to the common law record, thus making it impossible for this court to assess whether the facts as presented by the plaintiffs have been stated accurately and fairly. Further, the appendix of plaintiffs' brief contains neither a copy of the judgments appealed from, nor copies of the notices of appeal, and it does not include filing or entry dates for many of the items shown on the table of contents as is required by Supreme Court Rule 342. (103 Ill. 2d Rules 342(a), (a)(2).) Although this court has inherent authority to dismiss an appeal for such noncompliance with its rules, it is within our discretion to proceed to consider the merits of the appeal, which we do here, in light of the inclusion of facts with proper record references in Rockford Blacktop's brief. 103 Ill. 2d R. 341(f).

In support of their motion for summary judgment, the defendants offered Wilma Lindenmier's deposition. She was deposed as follows: On October 19, 1982, between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m., she was driving her daughters, Regina Hamman Lindenmier and Elizabeth Lindenmier, to school. Immediately prior to the accident, she was driving southbound on 11th Street approaching its intersection with Samuelson Road. She had often driven that route before on the way to the girls' schools. At the time of the accident, southbound 11th Street near its intersection with Samuelson Road was divided into four lanes: two lanes for southbound through traffic, one lane for traffic turning left to go east on Samuelson, and one lane for traffic turning right to go west on Samuelson. As she approached the intersection, she signaled a lane change to go into the left-turn lane behind another car which was also turning left.

At the intersection, there are three traffic signals governing southbound traffic on 11th Street. Two of the signals are suspended over the southbound lanes of 11th Street from a standard located on the southwest corner of the intersection. The traffic signal which faced the easternmost southbound through-lane on 11th Street has three lenses: solid red, solid yellow, and solid green (light A). The other traffic signal faced the left-turn lane for southbound traffic going east on Samuelson and had five lenses: solid red, solid yellow, solid green, yellow arrow or green arrow (light B). The third traffic signal was located on the southeast corner of the intersection and had five lenses: solid red, solid yellow, solid green, yellow arrow or green arrow (light C). This signal was angled so that it directly faced the traffic turning left onto Samuelson Road from southbound 11th Street.

Just before she entered the left-turn lane, the traffic signals facing her were red. She observed only one car ahead of her in the left-turn lane, and when she first observed it, it was stopped. When she was approximately 5 or 6 feet from entering the left-turn lane, this other southbound vehicle was approximately two car lengths ahead of her in the left southbound turn lane. As she proceeded south in the left-turn lane, all the signals controlling southbound traffic were green, and the car immediately ahead of her pulled around the corner and completed its left turn onto Samuelson Road. She looked at two lights in making her turn: lights B and C. They were green, but not green turn arrows. Although at one time she had seen a green arrow, she did not see a green arrow that day. Sometimes the green arrow was not working.

After entering the left-turn lane, she never stopped her vehicle, but only slowed down to approximately 5 to 10 miles per hour. As she was getting ready to turn, she observed the top of a northbound car which was approximately 300 feet away, coming towards her on 11th Street. She believed she had time to safely make her left turn across the northbound lanes of traffic. As she began to cross the northbound lanes of traffic, a collision occurred with the northbound vehicle, which was driven by Richard Beck.

For about three years prior to the accident, she would routinely make a left turn from 11th Street onto Samuelson Road while en route to take her children to school. She would typically make the turn from 11th Street onto Samuelson on a full green light as opposed to a green arrow. She knew that it was her duty to yield to oncoming traffic while making a left turn on a full green traffic light. In making her left turn immediately before the accident, she observed that the traffic signal in the southeast corner of the intersection and the traffic signal suspended above the intersection closest to the left-turn lane displayed full green signals alone. When she observed those two full green lights the day of the accident, she felt that before making her turn she had to yield the right-of-way.

She formed the judgment that she had enough time to make the left turn safely because she thought the traffic on northbound 11th Street had a red light. She thought this because she saw another northbound car across the intersection in the easternmost northbound lane which was stopped. She did not recall any details about the stopped car, and she had no way of knowing whether the car was stopped because of a red light as opposed to mechanical difficulties or other problems. Based on her assumption that northbound traffic had a red light, she felt she could make the left turn safely. She had no way of knowing whether the approaching northbound car had a red light; she figured that car would stop because the other car was stopped. She also thought she could make the turn safely because it appeared to her that the northbound vehicle was quite a distance away, and she thought she could go because the car ahead of her had already turned. She did not recall anything about the layout of the intersection or the location of the lights that led her to think that on the day of the occurrence she could do anything other than yield the right-of-way before making her left turn.

In opposition to the defendants' motions for summary judgment, Wilma Lindenmier filed an affidavit. Therein, she stated that when she first saw the car ahead of her in the left-turn lane it was stopped and that it may have been stopped behind other cars but that she did not remember. The car ahead of her began to move south in the left-turn lane, and when she looked at lights B and C they were green only; no other lights were operating. She continued to follow the car ahead of her and it turned left onto Samuelson. As she was coming to make a left turn, she saw a car stopped on 11th Street facing north in what she believed was the right-hand lane of northbound 11th Street. Lights B and C still showed green and the other northbound car on 11th Street was still stopped. It was her belief at that time that she was permitted to make a left-hand turn and that traffic on 11th Street had to stop and that the green lights on signal B and C meant that she could make a left turn and cars going in all other directions had to stop. She thought that she had enough time to go through the intersection before that left-turn light would turn to yellow or red.

There were no green or yellow arrows operating on lights B and C that day. If there were, she would have realized that in fact northbound traffic on 11th Street had a green light as she was making her turn. She was relying on the green lights on lights B and C to tell her that she could make a left turn and the other vehicles had to stop. She relied on lights B and C to tell her that she could make her turn safely.

Plaintiffs also filed the affidavit of Robert Paul Potosnyak, who was the driver of the car ahead of Wilma Lindenmier in the left-turn lane. For three years prior to October 19, 1982, he would drive through the intersection of 11th Street and Samuelson Road. On that day at that intersection, he made a left-hand turn onto Samuelson Road and then an immediate right-hand turn onto the frontage road which was east of and ...


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