The Honorable Justice Tully delivered the opinion of the court: Rizzi and Cerda, JJ. concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tully
JUSTICE TULLY delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiffs brought the present action against defendant, Phillip R. Treitman, to recover damages for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. The cause was tried before a jury which returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs on February 24, 1993. Defendant filed post-trial motions requesting the court set aside the verdict and order a new trial, or in the alternative, order a remittitur. The trial court denied defendant's motions and entered judgment on the verdict on June 24, 1993. It is from this order plaintiff appeals pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 301. 134 Ill. 2d R. 301.
For the reasons which follow, we affirm.
On November 30, 1988, plaintiff, Ilia Neyzelman (Ilia) was driving his vehicle northbound on Tripp in Skokie, Illinois. Deanna Neyzelman (Deanna) was seated in the right front and Dimitry Neyzelman (Dimitry) was seated in the back on the driver's side of plaintiffs' vehicle. Defendant, Phillip Treitman (Treitman) was driving his vehicle eastbound on Keeney. Treitman's vehicle collided with the driver's side of plaintiffs' vehicle. After the accident, all the parties exited their vehicles. No one appeared to have been injured and no emergency medical attention was required by any party.
Plaintiffs filed a complaint which sought recovery for property damage to their vehicle and personal injuries sustained by each of them. Of particular importance to this appeal is plaintiffs' claim that ten-year old Dimitry hit his head on the left rear passenger window of plaintiffs' vehicle during the collision which caused him to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. This stress manifested itself in a permanent condition of dysfluency or stuttering. At trial, Dimitry testified that when he returned to school the first week of December, he noticed he had developed a stutter.
Dr. Alexander Golbin, a child psychiatrist, testified that he treated Dimitry weekly for approximately one year. His treatment of the stutter consisted of 40-45 minute sessions where he made Dimitry squat and read, spin and read, run in place and read, count backwards and read with candy in his mouth. Dr. Golbin testified that when he released Dimitry from his care in 1987, he was dramatically better and had only a very mild form of stuttering. Dr. Golbin further testified that it was his professional opinion that the cause of Dimitry's stuttering was related to the stress associated with the automobile accident.
Additional testimony was provided by Arlene Harris, a speech and language pathologist at Old Orchard Junior High School, who rendered speech and language therapy to Dimitry commencing in the fall of 1987. She taught and practiced with Dimitry the technique of speaking slowly to prevent stuttering. Harris continued to treat Dimitry once a week for two or three months until Dimitry's mother, Deanna requested the therapy be stopped as it conflicted with the treatment rendered by Dr. Golbin.
The jury verdict was as follows: Ilia Neyzelman, pain and suffering, $1000, disability, 0, medical expenses, $1210.20, property damage, $1994.73; Deanna Neyzelman, pain and suffering $1000, disability, 0, medical expenses $1347.40; Dimitry Neyzelman, past pain and suffering $43,000, future pain and suffering, $8500, past disability, $22,000, future disability, $51,500, past medical expenses, $3940, future medical expenses, 0.
ISSUES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW
On appeal, defendant contends that: 1) the trial court erred when it denied defendant's motion for a mistrial after plaintiffs' attorney questioned the venire during voir dire whether they had relatives or friends in the claims handling or claims business; 2) the trial court improperly allowed testimony from Arlene Harris, the nature of whose testimony was allegedly unknown to the defense until after the commencement of trial, and; 3) that the trial court improperly instructed the jury as to Dimitry's future pain and suffering and future disability.
Defendant first claims that the trial court erred in refusing to grant a mistrial during voir dire after plaintiffs' counsel questioned the venire as to whether they or any close relative or friend of theirs currently worked or had worked in the "claims business" or "claims handling business." Defendant contends that the only purpose of such inquiry was to improperly inform the prospective jurors that the defendant was covered by insurance at the time of the collision. The trial court had already questioned the venire about their occupations in general and whether they had any relatives who worked in occupations which would cause them to be biased if chosen. Because no one responded that they worked in the insurance industry, defendant posits that plaintiffs' questions were redundant and served only to precondition the jury to render a larger verdict. Defendant relies on Imparato v. Rooney (1981), 95 Ill. App. 3d 11, 419 N.E.2d 620, 50 Ill. Dec. 512, for the proposition that where the jury is aware of the existence of insurance, it "will probably result in a larger verdict than that awarded in the absence of such knowledge."
Plaintiffs respond they had a good faith basis for their questions to the venire in that insurance is not necessarily synonymous with claims. Therefore, general questions restricted to the businesses or occupations of the venire may fail to disclose the connection of a close friend or relative who worked in such industries and it was therefore incumbent upon counsel for plaintiffs to make reasonable, pertinent and thorough inquiries designed to assess the bias of jurors for ...