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Miller v. Pinnancle Door Company

November 25, 1998

MARY J. MILLER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
PINNACLE DOOR COMPANY, INC., D/B/A CENTRAL ILLINOIS DOOR, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McCULLOUGH

IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS FOURTH DISTRICT

Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County

No. 96L40

Honorable Luther H. Dearborn, Judge Presiding.

On or about March 20, 1995, defendant Pinnacle Door Company (Pinnacle) installed a remote-control garage door opener at the residential garage of plaintiff Mary Miller and her husband, Glen. On June 22, 1995, Mary was injured when operating an emergency release cord on the garage door opener. On March 26, 1996, Mary filed a complaint against Pinnacle, alleging, inter alia, Pinnacle was negligent in installing the release cord. In September 1997, on the second day of trial, and prior to plaintiff resting her case in chief, Pinnacle was granted leave to amend its pleadings to assert a contributory negligence defense. The jury returned a verdict finding Pinnacle liable but Mary 50% contributorily negligent. Mary appeals, arguing the trial court erred by allowing Pinnacle to amend its pleadings and by allowing Mike Hillard, one of Pinnacle's owners, to testify about problems with other garage door openers. We affirm.

The parties are aware of the facts and the testimony will not be reviewed in detail.

In March 1995, Daniel VanNote, an employeee of Pinnacle, came to Mary's home to install a remote-control garage door opener produced by Allister Manufacturing Company, Inc. (Allister). The opener was attached to the ceiling near the front and center of the garage, which Mary described at trial as larger than a typical two-car garage. A red handle attached to a cord hanging beneath the opener operates the emergency release lever.

A tag attached to the opener reads:

"IF THE DOOR BECOMES OBSTRUCTED, DETACH DOOR FROM OPERATOR BY PULLING RED HANDLE DOWN SHARPLY. TO RE-ENGAGE THE OPERATOR PULL RED HANDLE TOWARD DOOR OPENING."

On June 22, 1995, the garage door would not go back down after Glen left for work. Mary went out into the garage and pulled the emergency release rope, but the opener did not respond. She pulled the rope again and it came loose from the release lever, causing Mary to fall on her left side and injure her left wrist. According to Mary's deposition testimony, taken on November 15, 1996, when she fell she "flew" across the garage, into the corner.

On March 26, 1996, Mary filed a complaint against Pinnacle for injuries incurred from her fall. According to a case management order entered on June 25, 1996, Pinnacle had until December 1, 1996, to disclose its opinion witnesses. Pinnacle did not notify Mary of any opinion witnesses prior to trial.

On September 9, 1997, Mary filed a notice pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 214 (166 Ill. 2d R. 214) requesting any and all documents reflecting complaints about the installation of garage door openers. Pinnacle moved to quash this notice, arguing the materials it sought were irrelevant and Mary was using it improperly as a late discovery tool. The trial court granted the motion to quash the notice. On September 10, 1997, the first day of trial, the trial court granted Pinnacle's motion in limine to exclude evidence relating to other garage door openers because this evidence was irrelevant. In opening statement, Pinnacle's counsel referred to problems with other garage door openers, not attributable to Pinnacle, due to moisture collecting in the electronic eyes. Because Pinnacle had not disclosed any evidence or opinion testimony on this point, Mary filed a motion in limine to exclude any such evidence. This motion was denied.

Mary, Glen, and VanNote testified as Mary presented her case. Both Mary and Glen testified as to the problems they had had with the opener prior to the accident. Mary testified that she flew across the garage once the cord came loose, but she denied she fell into the corner of the garage until confronted on cross-examination with her deposition statement. Then Mary merely admitted that she had stated otherwise in her deposition.

VanNote testified that when he attached the cord to the release lever, he did not use a double knot as instructed by the installation manual. He testified he did not know what a double knot was, and he did not recall if he was ever told to use one. VanNote testified ...


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