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11/25/96 DORLY MCCRAW AND RAYMOND MCCRAW v. JAN

November 25, 1996

DORLY MCCRAW AND RAYMOND MCCRAW, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
JAN CEGIELSKI, LYNN SNOW AND SNOW BROTHERS, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE PADDY MCNAMARA, PRESIDING.

Rehearing Denied May 7, 1997. As Modified on Denial of Rehearing May 12, 1997. Released for Publication June 2, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Braden delivered the opinion of the court.* Campbell, P.j., concurs. Wolfson, J., specially concurring.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Braden

MODIFIED ON DENIAL OF REHEARING

The Honorable Justice BRADEN delivered the opinion of the court:*

Plaintiffs, Dorly and Raymond McCraw, filed a negligence action in the circuit court of Cook County against defendants, Lynn Snow, Snow Brothers Inc., and Jan Cegielski. After a jury trial, 60% liability was apportioned to Lynn Snow and Snow Brothers, Inc., and 40% liability, based upon a contributory negligence finding, was apportioned to plaintiffs. There was no liability assessed against Jan Cegielski.

Plaintiffs, Dorly and Raymond McCraw, appeal contending that the trial court erroneously denied their motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the contributory negligence finding. Defendants, Lynn Snow and Snow Brothers, Inc., maintain that (1) they were entitled to JNOV; and (2) their motion for a new trial was improperly denied.

At about 5:30 a.m. on the morning of March 30, 1988, plaintiffs, Jan Cegielski and Lynn Snow were driving on Mannheim Road in Franklin Park, Illinois. Plaintiffs and Snow were traveling northbound and Jan was traveling southbound. All three vehicles approached a six-lane bridge at about the same time. The northbound and southbound lanes were separated by a concrete median approximately one foot high and three feet wide.

As he ascended the bridge, Jan lost control of his car and part of the car hit the concrete median and crossed over into the left lane of the northbound traffic. Plaintiffs were traveling northbound in the left lane. As plaintiffs ascended the bridge, they were unable to see Jan's car hanging over the median into their lane. Plaintiffs were traveling within the speed limit, at about 35 or 40 miles per hour when their vehicle struck that of Jan.

Snow was also driving northbound on the bridge in the right-hand lane about two or three car-lengths behind plaintiffs' car. The impact of the collision between plaintiffs' car and Jan's car caused plaintiffs' car to slide across the road, hitting Snow's car. The rear portion of plaintiffs' car hit the left-front portion of Snow's car.

After a jury trial, plaintiffs were awarded $743,000 in damages which was reduced by 40% due to a contributory negligence finding. The jury found that Snow followed the plaintiffs' vehicle too closely and failed to avoid colliding with the plaintiffs' car. The liability of Snow was assessed at 60%. No liability was assessed against Jan. Plaintiffs and Snow appeal.

THE SNOW APPEAL

The Snow defendants posit that they were erroneously found negligent and that their JNOV motion should have been granted. The negligence allegations against Lynn Snow were that he (1) followed plaintiffs' vehicle too closely; and (2) failed to prevent colliding with plaintiffs' car.

Although sparse evidence may exist to favor the verdict, a JNOV is properly entered where the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the party seeking the verdict, so overwhelmingly supports the movant that no contrary verdict could ever stand. Pedrick v. Peoria & Eastern R.R. Co., 37 Ill. 2d 494, 229 N.E.2d 504 ...


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