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04/14/88 Darla Wright, v. Nina Stokes

April 14, 1988

DARLA WRIGHT, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT AND COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT

v.

NINA STOKES, DEFENDANT AND APPELLEE AND COUNTERPLAINTIFF-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

522 N.E.2d 308, 167 Ill. App. 3d 887, 118 Ill. Dec. 853 1988.IL.537

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Union County; the Hon. D. D. Bigler, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LEWIS delivered the opinion of the court. KARNS and CALVO, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LEWIS

Plaintiff, Darla Wright, brought an action in the circuit court of Union County to recover compensatory damages for injuries and monetary loss she sustained as a result of a collision involving her vehicle and a vehicle driven by defendant, Nina Stokes. In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendant's vehicle had crossed into her lane of travel, causing the collision. Defendant counterclaimed, alleging that plaintiff had crossed the center line. On January 28, 1987, a jury returned a verdict awarding the defendant damages of $2,694.13, but denying plaintiff any recovery. Judgment was entered on the verdict. Following denial of her post-trial motion, plaintiff appealed.

The testimony at trial was conflicting. Plaintiff testified that she was traveling northbound on North Main Street in Anna, Illinois, when defendant crossed the center line into her lane of travel, causing the collision. Defendant testified that plaintiff came across the center line and collided with her. Other than plaintiff and defendant, no one witnessed the accident. Several post-occurrence witnesses testified. Harry Palmer, an acquaintance of plaintiff's, and Gerald Casper, the investigating police officer, testified that they found debris from the collision in the northbound (plaintiff's) lane. Mabel Adams, defendant's neighbor, testified that she saw debris in the southbound (defendant's) lane, but saw no debris in the northbound lane. Frederick Dawley, also a neighbor of defendant, testified that he saw debris in both lanes.

The issues on appeal spring not from what was said at trial, but what was not said. Prior to the trial, defendant filed motions in limine seeking to exclude, inter alia, any reference to the fact that defendant received a traffic citation as a result of the accident and any opinion testimony by investigating officer Gerald Casper as to the point of collision. The motions were granted and plaintiff's examination of witnesses was so limited. Plaintiff challenges the propriety of the trial court's order in her post-trial motion and on appeal.

Specifically, plaintiff claims that the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion in limine, thereby suppressing an "admission of fault defendant had made in pleading guilty to crossing the center line of traffic." Plaintiff also contends that the trial court erred when it refused to allow counsel for plaintiff to impeach his own witness at trial.

During his direct examination of defendant, counsel for plaintiff asked defendant, "Have you ever admitted fault to anybody in this case?" Defendant responded, "No." Counsel for plaintiff, during a subsequent recess, made the following offer of proof:

"MR. HUGHES: The offer of proof, Your Honor, would simply be that I would have called the Circuit Clerk, the Union County Circuit Clerk, to the stand, Mat Page, and placed into evidence a court record of a certain order of supervision wherein the Defendant, Nina Stokes, plead [ sic ] guilty to a traffic violation, crossing the center line of traffic, and that she was placed on thirty days Court supervision. After the period of supervision was up, the case was dismissed by State's Attorney, Wes Wilkins. It would be the position of the plaintiff that that is an impeachable plea of guilty.

THE COURT: I think that, for the record, it should be that a motion was a motion filed by the State's Attorney to dismiss the case. What I am saying is, you said that Mr. Wilkins dismissed the case.

MR. HUGHES: I think he did.

THE COURT: He filed a motion to ...


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