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12/06/89 David Schultz, v. W.C. Siddens

December 6, 1989

DAVID SCHULTZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

W.C. SIDDENS, D/B/A MAECO CONTRACTORS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. -- DAVID SCHULTZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

W.C. SIDDENS, D/B/A MAECO CONTRACTORS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CRAWFORD COUNTY; THE HON. JAMES

v.

HILL, JUDGE, PRESIDING. APPELLATE JUDGES:



Before liability can be predicated on a statutory violation, however, the violation must be a proximate cause of the injury. (Ney v. Yellow Cab Co. (1954), 2 Ill. 2d 74, 79, 117 N.E.2d 74, 78.) The defendants argue that if section 11-1418 was violated, it cannot constitute the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury because the injury is not the natural and probable result of the violation. We believe that such a determination is best resolved by the jury. (Davis, 64 Ill. 2d at 395, 356 N.E.2d at 100; Ney, 2 Ill. 2d at 84, 117 N.E.2d at 80.) In the instant case the jury was deprived of the opportunity to make such a determination due to the trial court's error in striking the allegation of the statutory violation from the complaint. In addition, this error prevented the plaintiff from introducing evidence at trial in support of his claim that section 11-1418 was violated. As such, the defendants' contention that the evidence at trial showed that no violation of the statute occurred must also fail. We therefore reverse the judgment in favor of the defendants and remand this cause for a new trial.

APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

548 N.E.2d 87, 191 Ill. App. 3d 622, 138 Ill. Dec. 857 1989.IL.1893

JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the opinion of the court. RARICK and HOWERTON, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE CHAPMAN

These consolidated appeals arise out of a traffic accident involving a motorcycle driven by the plaintiff, David Schultz, and a tractor driven by defendant, Steven Neeley, an employee of codefendant, W. C. Siddens. On July 21, 1984, the plaintiff was traveling west on Route 33 toward Robinson, Illinois, when he came upon a line of approximately seven vehicles backed up behind the defendant's tractor, which was pulling a disc. The tractor, which was equipped with two yellow flashing caution lights and a "slow moving vehicle" sign, was traveling approximately 15 miles per hour. The posted speed limit on Route 33 is 55 miles per hour. When the plaintiff came upon the line of vehicles following the tractor he slowed and followed behind them. Some time thereafter, the plaintiff moved into the eastbound lane of traffic in an attempt to pass the vehicles and the tractor. Before the plaintiff could complete this maneuver, the tractor turned left into a driveway which led to a garage and storage area owned by defendant Siddens. There was conflicting testimony concerning whether the driver of the tractor signaled his intention to make the turn. The plaintiff collided with the disc, severing his leg. The trial court entered judgment upon a jury verdict in favor of the defendants and the plaintiff's post-trial motion was denied.

No. 5-87-0493

In this appeal, the plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion to strike a portion of the complaint and that defense counsel's comments in closing argument constituted reversible error. For the reasons stated below, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

Prior to trial, the plaintiff was granted leave to amend his first amended complaint by adding an allegation that the defendants were negligent in operating the tractor in violation of section 11-1418 of the Illinois rules of the road (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1418). That section provides:

"Farm tractor operation regulated. No person shall operate a farm tractor on a highway unless such tractor is being used as an implement of husbandry in connection with farming operations.

For the purpose of this Section, use of a farm tractor as an implement of husbandry in connection with farming operations shall be deemed to include use of such tractor in connection with the transportation of agricultural products and of farm machinery, equipment and supplies as well as transportation of such tractors in connection with the obtaining of repairs thereto, and the towing of a registered truck not more than 8,000 pounds for use as return transportation after the tractor is left at the place of work or repair." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1418.

The defendants' motion to strike the amended portion of the complaint was granted by the trial court. The plaintiff maintains that this was error, and argues that section 11-1418 is a public safety statute which establishes a standard of care, and that violation of a safety statute is prima facie evidence of negligence. The plaintiff contends that section 11-1418 was enacted to promote safety on the highways by controlling and limiting the movement of tractors. Plaintiff argues that, at a minimum, he should have been allowed to present evidence at trial showing the applicability of the statute and that violation of the statute constituted a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries.

The defendants contend that the uncontroverted evidence at trial showed that the tractor was being used to transport farm equipment and therefore no violation of the statute occurred. Furthermore, the defendants maintain that even if the statute were violated, such a violation is not evidence of negligence because section 11-1418 is regulatory in nature and does not set forth a standard of care. The defendants contend that section 11-1418 is analogous to section 6-101 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 6-101), which prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle without a valid license. The defendants cite Westefer v. Rybacki (1970), 125 Ill. App. 2d 66, 69, 259 N.E.2d 810, 812, and Wilson v. Hobrock (1951), 344 Ill. App. 147, 152, 100 N.E.2d 412, 415, for the proposition that driving without a license is not causally related to the question of due care. The defendants further argue that a violation of section 11-1418 cannot, as a matter of law, constitute the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury because the injury is not the natural and probable result of the statutory violation.

There is no question that "'violation of a statute or ordinance designed for the protection of human life or property is prima facie evidence of negligence.'" (Davis v. Marathon Oil Co. (1976), 64 Ill. 2d 380, 390, 356 N.E.2d 93, 97, quoting Dini v. Naiditch (1960), 20 Ill. 2d 406, 417, 170 N.E.2d 881, 886.) The primary question is whether section 11-1418 was intended to promote the safety of those traveling the highways of this State, as the plaintiff contends, or whether it is merely regulatory in nature like the licensing statute at issue in Westefer and Wilson. "In ascertaining the legislature's intent, a court must consider a statute in its entirety and note the subject it addresses and the legislature's apparent objective in enacting it." (Hettermann v. Weingart (1983), 120 Ill. App. 3d 683, 690, 458 N.E.2d 616, 621, citing Gill v. Miller (1983), 94 Ill. 2d 52, 56, 445 N.E.2d 330, 333.) We believe that the objective of the legislature in enacting section 11-1418 was obviously to limit the presence of farm tractors on highways. We cannot imagine, nor does the defendant suggest, any plausible reason for such a restriction other than to minimize the dangers which such vehicles pose to the safe movement of traffic. Such dangers include those associated with the necessarily slow speed at which such vehicles travel. We find, therefore, that section 11-1418 was designed for the protection of human life or property. We note that our construction of section 11-1418 is supported by its placement in the section of the Illinois Vehicle Code known as the "Rules of the Road." The majority of the subsections contained in this portion of the Illinois Vehicle Code are concerned with the safe movement of traffic. (See, e.g., Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, pars. 11-601 (general speed restrictions), 11-707 (no passing zones), 11-1401 (unattended motor vehicles).) In contrast, section 6-101, which requires drivers to be licensed, is contained in a section of the Illinois Vehicle Code which generally deals with administrative matters concerning the issuance and revocation of licenses. See, e.g., Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, pars. 6-109 (examination of applicants), 6-303 (driving while license is suspended or revoked).

Having decided that a new trial is necessary, we will address plaintiff's contention that defense counsel improperly commented on the defendant's ability to pay. During ...


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