into the oncoming lane. The potholes were not the proximate cause of the accident.
In Suzik v. Sea-Land Corp., 89 F.3d 345 (7th Cir. 1996), plaintiff was driving a semi-tractor with a refrigerated trailer, when one of the propane tanks that provided fuel to the refrigeration system fell out of its bracket. Plaintiff tried to push the tank back into place, despite his own history of back problems, and despite the fact that under the company's established procedures the driver was supposed to call a repairman rather than attempt a repair himself. The Seventh Circuit found that it was not foreseeable that the driver would depart from the repair procedures when he "had the opportunity to follow those procedures without significant risk to himself and others." Id. at 350.
Plaintiffs have introduced three cases of their own to support their argument that Timothy Lawrence's actions were reasonably foreseeable and thus not an effective intervening cause. In the first, Filipetto v. Village of Wilmette, 135 Ill. App. 3d 781, 90 Ill. Dec. 539, 482 N.E.2d 358 (1st Dist. 1985), the plaintiff was forced by a nearby moving car to ride his bicycle into an air compressor that had been left on the side of the road. The trial court found that the placement of the air compressor in the road was merely a condition, not the proximate cause of the accident. The car that forced the plaintiff into the compressor was an effective intervening cause that broke the chain of causality. The appellate court reversed, finding it foreseeable that leaving an air compressor in the road in violation of a safety statute would cause injury -- even if the exact circumstances of the injury were not foreseeable.
Plaintiff's second case is Wright v. General Motors Corp., 479 F.2d 52 (7th Cir. 1973). In Wright, the plaintiff's truck broke down in the middle of the highway and he was struck by an oncoming car while he attempted an emergency roadside repair. The Seventh Circuit upheld plaintiff's claim against the truck manufacturer, noting that "we are not able to conclude as a matter of law that the defendants' conduct was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. ... When a vehicle suddenly comes to a halt on a public highway, we do not believe that an attempt to make emergency repairs on the vehicle or the vehicle's being struck by another vehicle are outside the range of reasonable anticipation." Id. at 53.
Finally, in Sokolowski v. All Points Distribution Service, Inc., 243 Ill. App. 3d 539, 183 Ill. Dec. 822, 612 N.E.2d 79 (1st Dist. 1993), the plaintiff was a truck driver who was stopped at a weigh station because his load, nine skids of sheet steel, was improperly distributed. Plaintiff attempted to redistribute the weight using a pry bar that had been provided for this purpose, and injured his back. The court found that it was foreseeable that the plaintiff would be stopped because of the improper load distribution and would try to redistribute the load using the pry bar. Thus, his decision to move the load was not an effective intervening cause; rather, the improper placement of the load by the defendant's employees was the proximate cause of his injuries.
What do all of these cases tell us? Despite their seemingly contradictory nature they do share certain common threads that will enable us to come to a decision. In each of the cases provided by the defendant the injury occurred after either the plaintiff or a third party responded to the defendant's negligent act or omission in a manner that violated established safety standards. In Lindenmeier and Novander, the injury occurred because the plaintiff or a third party violated traffic laws. In Suzik, the injury occurred because the driver departed from well established repair procedures in attempting to repair the propane tank. Moreover, in none of these cases was the intervening act reasonably necessary under the circumstances. Rather, in each case the intervening actor responded to the condition created by the defendant in an unreasonable and dangerous manner. In plaintiff's cases, on the other hand, everyone involved in the accident acted reasonably (or at least did not clearly act unreasonably) under the circumstances. In Filipetto, the placement of the air compressor in the midst of traffic made it difficult for either the bicyclist or the driver of the car to see it in time to avoid a collision. In Wright and Sokolowski, the plaintiffs were injured while reasonably attempting to rectify a situation caused by defendant's negligence.
Where does all of this leave Timothy Lawrence? We believe that reasonable people could differ as to whether his response to defendant's alleged negligence was foreseeable. See Williams v. Chicago Board of Education, 267 Ill. App. 3d at 451. When the wheel fell off his pickup truck, the truck was rendered immobile. Mr. Lawrence had to get it home somehow, either by calling a tow truck or reattaching the wheel himself. Wheel reattachment does not differ very much from the commonplace act of replacing a tire, except that the placement of the jack is trickier. To attempt such a repair does not appear to be foolhardy or irresponsible on its face. Nor do we find persuasive defendant's argument that Lawrence's failure to follow the instructions in the owner's manual in itself makes his actions necessarily unreasonable. Lawrence did not place the jack under the axle (as the manual directed) because defendant's alleged negligence made this impossible: the wheel had fallen off and the axle was resting on the ground. The manual did not anticipate such a situation, and so Lawrence improvised in a not clearly unreasonable manner. A reasonable jury could find the defendant's alleged negligence not to be proximate cause of plaintiff's injury. It could also find Mr. Lawrence's attempt to reattach the wheel to be foreseeable and defendant's negligence to be a proximate cause of his injury, whether or not they find plaintiff also to be negligent. And these alternatives defeat summary judgment.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant Bridgestone/Firestone's motion for summary judgment is denied.
JAMES B. MORAN,
Senior Judge, U.S. District Court
April 24, 1997.