APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE JEROME LERNER, JUDGE PRESIDING.
The Honorable Justice Wolfson delivered the opinion of the court: Campbell, P.j. and Buckley, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson
The Honorable Justice WOLFSON delivered the opinion of the court:
The question in this case is whether a jury must be instructed that the plaintiff in a contribution action has to prove it settled the underlying claim because of a reasonable anticipation of liability. We conclude that the instruction is required. For that reason, we reverse the judgment below and remand the cause for a new trial. BACKGROUND
We set out only those facts and circumstances required for disposition of the issue that determines the outcome of this appeal.
On August 10, 1988, Nirmala Patel (Patel) was injured at work when her hand and arm were caught in a machine. She was employed by Admo, Inc. (Admo). The machine was manufactured by Trueblood.
Patel sued Trueblood. Her amended complaint alleged that she had been injured at work while using Trueblood's machine and that the accident occurred because of Trueblood's negligence. Trueblood, in turn, filed a complaint against Admo seeking contribution.
Before trial, Patel settled her claim against Trueblood for $185,000. The trial court entered an order finding the settlement had been made in good faith. Admo did not object to the settlement. The trial of Trueblood against Admo began.
Before the jury was selected, the trial court granted Trueblood's motion in limine. Admo was prevented from offering evidence that Patel had sued Trueblood, that other accidents had occurred with the machine that injured Patel, and that the settlement with Patel was not made in good faith or was otherwise inequitable.
At trial, Trueblood produced evidence that it manufactured the machine and that it settled with Patel for $185,000. It did not present any direct evidence that it settled because of a reasonable anticipation of liability.
Trueblood's evidence mostly concerned the way the machine operated and the way Patel was trained and supervised. Trueblood's theory was that the machine was safe and that Patel was injured because she was improperly trained, instructed, and supervised by Admo.
When Trueblood rested, Admo moved for a directed verdict, arguing that Trueblood had not established it settled with Patel because it reasonably anticipated liability. The trial court denied the motion.
Admo presented evidence that it attempted to make the machine safer and that Patel had ignored written and oral work rules and instructions.
After both sides rested, an instructions conference was held. At Admo's request, Trueblood tendered an issues instruction that stated Admo denied Trueblood settled in reasonable anticipation of liability. That instruction was given. But the trial court refused to include in the burden of proof instruction a requirement that the jury find Trueblood ...