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09/18/87 In Re Estate of James Dickens

September 18, 1987



Dickens, Special Adm'r, Plaintiff-Appellant, v.

Avanti Research & Development, Inc., Defendant-Appellee)

515 N.E.2d 208, 161 Ill. App. 3d 565, 113 Ill. Dec. 399

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas Janczy, Judge, presiding.

Rehearing denied October 19, 1987 1987.IL.1370


JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. SULLIVAN, P.J., and MURRAY, J., concur.


This lawsuit arises out of an electrocution accident involving an antenna and a power line. Plaintiff appeals from a jury verdict and the denial of his post-trial motion, and on appeal he urges the following: (1) it was improper for the trial court to grant defendant's motion in limine excluding reference to any similar accidents concerning antennas; (2) the trial court erred when it excluded all references to the existence of or adequacy of warnings or instructions pertaining to this product; (3) the trial court erred in sustaining defendant's objections to plaintiff's cross-examination of defendant's expert witness and president on the issue of the feasibility of making the antenna safer; and (4) the trial court erred when it prevented plaintiff's expert witness from supporting his opinion by reference to authoritative data or treatises.

We affirm.

The following facts are pertinent to our Disposition of this cause. On February 23, 1980, there was an electrocution accident with an antenna and a power line. Defendant manufactured the antenna known as an AV 170. This base station antenna was approximately 20 feet long. Near the base of the antenna are four horizontal radials which create an electrical ground plane extending three feet in all directions. It also has a solid piece of rubber near the base of the antenna.

Eric Enzenbacher, age 15, purchased the AV 170 antenna and a "CB" radio from a third party. The radio did not come in a box. The seller did not give any instruction manuals to Enzenbacher. He then showed Enzenbacher a disassembled antenna in a cardboard box. Enzenbacher testified at trial that the antenna was new because the cardboard box was taped shut; however, in a deposition four years earlier he had testified that the antenna was not in its original package. Instead, the seller placed it in the same type of cardboard box. It is undisputed that the box did not contain any instruction manuals or warnings. Enzenbacher and a friend installed the antenna on top of his house.

On the day before the accident, Enzenbacher and the decedent, James Dickens, removed the antenna from Enzenbacher's roof. He intended to lend the radio and the antenna to Dickens. The antenna had been previously inserted into a galvanized pipe which came from Enzenbacher's yard. After removing the antenna from the roof, the two boys removed the radials and taped them to the antenna. They carried the antenna over to Dickens' house. They intended to erect the antenna near the window of the Dickens' garage. At the rear of the property there are high tension wires which run parallel to the property. The wires are located at the top of a 20-foot utility pole and carry approximately 7,000 volts. The lower and more visible wires are telephone cables. Enzenbacher testified that he did not think the antenna could reach the power lines. The boys waited until the next day to install the antenna.

Enzenbacher described the day as "wet." It took them approximately one hour to clear the area of erection, attach the coaxial cable, and set the ground pipe into the position. They found a two-foot ground pipe which was going to hold the mast. They also placed an aluminum ladder against the side of the garage. The boys intended to use the ladder to place a bracket at the top of the garage to hold the mast. They placed the ladder approximately 10 feet away from the pipe because they did not want the ladder to become tangled up with the mast as they were lifting the antenna. They tried to walk the antenna over the ground pipe, gradually raising the antenna to a 90 degrees angle. Once the antenna was near to the ground pipe they started to lift the antenna up to insert it into the pipe. The tip of the antenna then bent over as if it were pulled ...

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