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Bailey v. Wilson

September 28, 1998


Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 95L181 Honorable Thomas J. Fahey, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht


Corrected Opinion

The parties were involved in a two-car collision in Danville, Illinois. Plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against defendant for personal injuries to her head, neck, and back. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in defendant's favor. Plaintiff appeals, arguing the verdict was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and the court erred in admitting evidence of a prior automobile accident involving plaintiff. We disagree and affirm.


The automobile accident occurred in January 1995, as defendant was driving north on Vermilion Street, a four-lane road in Danville, Illi- nois. When he approached the intersection at Williams Street the traffic light was green. He slowed his automobile, pulled into the left turn lane, and prepared to turn onto Williams Street. He checked traf- fic and noticed another vehicle (not plaintiff's automobile) facing the opposite direction and waiting in the left turn lane.

As he proceeded to turn left through the intersection, his automo- bile struck plaintiff's vehicle, which was traveling south on Vermilion Street. His right front quarter panel collided with plaintiff's front bumper.

Prior to trial, the court denied plaintiff's motion in limine, which sought to preclude defendant from introducing evidence of a January 1993 automobile accident involving plaintiff. Dr. Raj Rajeswaren treated plaintiff after the 1993 accident. According to Dr. Rajeswaren's evidence deposition, the 1993 accident resulted in injuries to plaintiff's neck. He diagnosed her with post-concussion syndrome, acute cervical strain, and left brachial plexopathy. Dr. Rajeswaren also prescribed physical therapy and anticipated full recovery in four to six weeks. After her last examination in March 1993, plaintiff had full and pain-free range of motion.

At the August 1997 trial, plaintiff testified she was traveling south on Vermilion Street going approximately 30 miles per hour, which was the posted speed limit. The traffic light at the intersection of Williams Street was green. Defendant's automobile was facing the opposite direction in the left turn lane across Williams Street. When she was about three car lengths from the intersection, defendant hesi- tated before making his turn and she took her foot off the accelerator. Defendant then turned in front of her, causing her to brake and veer to the left. She did not sound her horn before colliding with defendant's vehicle. The impact threw her forward, causing her head to hit the win- dow.

Defendant described the collision as a solid bump. After the collision, he got out of his automobile and twice asked plaintiff if she wanted an ambulance. She refused both times. A third party who witnessed the accident also asked if she wanted an ambulance and she again refused. However, plaintiff was pregnant at the time of the accident so defendant convinced her to take an ambulance to the hospi- tal. Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room at United Samaritans Medical Center.

Plaintiff testified she told the emergency room personnel her neck was sore and she was having sharp, knife-like pains in her back. Howev- er, in his evidence deposition, Dr. Philip Barnell, the doctor who ini- tially treated plaintiff, stated she denied chest, neck, shoulder, and back pain. Nevertheless, Dr. Barnell ordered a cervical spine X ray and the results were normal. Based on plaintiff's statements and the diag- nostic tests, he concluded plaintiff was not injured except for abdomi- nal tenderness and fetal demise occurring before the accident. Plain- tiff did not seek recovery for the death of her unborn child.

Also testifying via an evidence deposition, Dr. Kevin Kirby, plaintiff's physician, stated plaintiff did not complain of lower back pain in the emergency room, but did complain of neck pain. Dr. Kirby testified plaintiff had spasms and tenderness in her neck; however, the cervical X ray did not show any fractures and there was no significant tissue swelling. He stated an acute fracture from the accident would have caused plaintiff significant pain on examination.

After being released from the hospital, plaintiff remained in bed for two days. She stated she could hardly move her neck, her head ached, her lower back was sore, and she could not move without pain. She was uncertain whether she told Dr. Kirby about the sharp pain in her lower back; however, he did not recall any complaints regarding her lower back.

Plaintiff continued to see Dr. Kirby for her injuries and fetal de- mise through March 1995. During their last appointment, Dr. Kirby told plaintiff to expect slow improvement over the next six to eight weeks and to check back if she had further problems. Plaintiff never returned to see Dr. Kirby.

Shortly after her last visit with Dr. Kirby, plaintiff began treatment with Dr. Sreemannarayana Prathipati, a rehabilitation doctor. In his evidence deposition, Dr. Prathipati stated plaintiff complained of neck and shoulder pain, a choking sensation in her throat, lower back pain radiating through her legs, tingling in her right arm, and a sensation in her hands and lower extremities as if they were asleep. His examination revealed ...

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