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05/16/88 Mary Jane Palmer, v. Frank W. Palmer

May 16, 1988

MARY JANE PALMER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

FRANK W. PALMER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

523 N.E.2d 1316, 169 Ill. App. 3d 828, 120 Ill. Dec. 405 1988.IL.753

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County; the Hon. Donald Courson, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE BARRY delivered the opinion of the court. HEIPLE and SCOTT, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BARRY

The defendant husband, Frank W. Palmer, appeals from the trial court's order of compensatory damages to the plaintiff wife, Mary Jane Palmer. We affirm.

The wife sought damages for her injuries resulting from the husband's allegedly intentional collision with a bridge abutment and/or his allegedly beating her after the collision. The events underlying this case occurred before dissolution of the parties' marriage. The husband was driving when their car collided with a bridge abutment. The passenger wife apparently suffered a broken neck and other injuries.

On remand following an interlocutory appeal (State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Palmer (1984), 123 Ill. App. 3d 674, 463 N.E.2d 129), a jury heard the wife's claim. It returned a verdict of $5,000 punitive damages and $150,000 compensatory damages for the wife. Pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the court entered an order of $115,000 compensatory damages. The husband brought the instant appeal.

The husband initially raised four issues on appeal. Pursuant to the wife's motion, however, we dismissed the appeal as to the husband's issue based upon inter-spousal immunity. We will discuss the three remaining issues in turn.

The husband first argues that the court erred in refusing to set aside the judgment, as it was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Regarding the wife's claim that she was injured when the husband wilfully and wantonly drove into a bridge abutment, the husband points to his testimony about fog on the night of the accident and also argues that there was a failure of proof of his intent. Further, the husband denies the wife's claim that he beat her following the collision. He notes that the wife reported to all of her treating physicians that she was injured in a car accident and that she did not indicate to them that the husband's blows had inflicted any of the injuries.

While there was scanty evidence on any post-collision battery, evidence surrounding the collision itself was ample. Both parties testified that just before the collision, the wife had revealed her unfaithfulness to the husband. The husband testified that immediately before the collision he had slapped the wife, the first time he had ever struck her. He also acknowledged that after the wife's revelation but before the collision he drove to his mother's grave site to have the wife admit her affair to his deceased mother. He also expressed that he had been frustrated, emotionally upset, and angry toward the wife. Further, there was testimony that the night was clear.

Considering the evidence of the husband's agitated state and the conflicting testimony on the weather conditions at the time of the collision, we find that there was sufficient proof to support the jury's verdict and that, consequently, the court did not err in refusing to set aside the verdict. Leahy v. Illinois Power Co. (1981), 103 Ill. App. 3d 487, 431 N.E.2d 390.

The husband's second argument is that the court erred in refusing to set aside the judgment as the jury improperly considered the probability of insurance coverage. He relies on the fact that in its second day of deliberation, and just prior to announcing a verdict, the jury submitted to the court a written question about whether an insurance company which had paid medical expenses to the wife would be entitled to reimbursement upon a monetary award to the wife.

After receiving the jury's question, the court consulted with the parties. It then responded in writing, instructing the jury not to consider the existence of insurance. Even assuming arguendo that the defendant has not waived his argument by failing to object at trial (see Pruitt v. Motor Cargo Inc. (1961), 30 Ill. App. 2d 222, 173 N.E.2d 851), the husband's argument is meritless. While the husband correctly notes that a verdict must respond to the issues in a case (Anderson v. Krancic (1946), 328 Ill. App. 364, 66 N.E.2d 316), there is no ...


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