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04/21/89 Sampson Stewart, v. Juan Alvarez

April 21, 1989





538 N.E.2d 646, 182 Ill. App. 3d 698, 131 Ill. Dec. 271 1989.IL.579

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Harry Stark, Judge, presiding.


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


Plaintiff, Sampson Stewart, a Chicago Transit Authority bus operator, filed an action against defendant, Juan Alvarez, for injuries sustained when plaintiff's CTA bus collided with defendant's automobile. Following a jury trial, judgment was awarded to defendant. Plaintiff appealed, and we now affirm.

It is undisputed that, at approximately noon on August 29, 1978, plaintiff's northbound CTA bus struck defendant's automobile at the intersection of Halsted and 39th Streets in Chicago. The accident occurred when defendant, traveling south on Halsted Street, attempted to complete a left turn, east, onto 39th Street, across the path of the CTA bus.

At trial, plaintiff testified that defendant caused the collision when he "darted out in front" of the bus. The impact in turn caused a "pin" in the operator's seat to "slip out." Plaintiff was injured when the seat collapsed. Plaintiff testified that the pin had never fallen out of the seat in the past, but he had heard of it happening to other drivers. He admitted that the pin could fall out from normal wear and tear and that the bus he drove that day was not new.

Defendant testified that he proceeded into the intersection, stopped, and waited to turn left with his directional signals indicating that intent. The collision occurred when, as defendant began to make the turn, he stopped again for a pedestrian. Defendant admitted that while nothing prevented him from seeing the pedestrian, he could not identify her., Plaintiff denied seeing the pedestrian.


We consider, in turn, each of the points raised by plaintiff on appeal.

Plaintiff first raises four issues regarding examination of the venire. Plaintiff initially contends the court improperly limited the questioning of two veniremen. In one instance, the court precluded plaintiff's counsel from asking a venireman whether he received insurance proceeds in conjunction with a traffic accident claim. In the other instance, the court admonished counsel against asking a venireman whether he would be willing to stay for the duration of the trial. Second, plaintiff contends defendant's counsel's remark during voir dire that the jury alone decided the fairness of a doctor's bill, if submitted as evidence, was improper as implying the jury was free to reject properly admitted exhibits. Third, plaintiff states the court improperly interjected remarks during plaintiff's counsel's questioning of two veniremen. Specifically, after plaintiff's counsel asked whether the veniremen could give a "substantial award" if the case was proved, the court cautioned that awards must be supported by evidence. Finally, plaintiff argues that it was improper to permit, as a juror, an individual who was a party to a child support matter pending in the circuit court.

Generally, Supreme Court Rule 234 permits trial courts broad discretion in conducting voir dire proceedings, and a verdict may be successfully challenged on appeal only where abuse of that discretion precludes an impartial jury. (107 Ill. 2d R. 234; Kingston v. Turner (1987), 115 Ill. 2d 445, 505 N.E.2d 320.) After considering each of the above contentions, we do not agree that any abuse of discretion occurred below.

First, the court's preclusion of plaintiff's counsel's irrelevant questions concerning insurance or willingness to sit through a lengthy trial was unquestionably within the trial court's discretion. Second, as to defendant's counsel's remark concerning the jury's consideration of the fairness of a hypothetical doctor's bill, the record discloses that the court immediately clarified counsel by telling the panel that if such a bill was paid and admitted as evidence, it would speak for itself. The record further reflects that the court's interjections related to evidentiary support for awards, rather than improper, were necessitated by plaintiff's counsel's emphasis regarding the amount of potential award. Last, we need not consider the merits of the argument that one juror was involved in a pending matter as the record reveals that, knowing of that fact, no objection was raised by plaintiff's counsel. See Kingston, 115 Ill. 2d 445, 505 N.E.2d 320., Plaintiff's next contentions relate to plaintiff's counsel's questioning of defendant as an adverse witness.

Soon after questioning began, the court interrupted the examination to remind the jurors that they were permitted to take notes during testimony. Plaintiff ...

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