Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 97-L-129 Honorable Paul Noland, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hutchinson
JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the opinion of the court:
After finding that defendant Janet Chairse (Janet) negligently drove an automobile into plaintiffs' vehicle, the trial court awarded plaintiff Robert Hubeny (Robert) a judgment in the amount of $9,714 and awarded plaintiff Melena Hubeny (Melena) a judgment in the amount of $21,219. Janet appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court's findings were based on an improper request for admissions; (2) plaintiffs waived the right to invoke Janet's admissions in court; and (3) the trial court improperly barred Janet from submitting evidence of a prior injury suffered by Melena that could have reduced the extent of Janet's liability. We affirm.
Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that Janet, acting individually and as the agent of defendant Ronald Chairse (Ronald), negligently drove an automobile into an intersection against a red traffic light and caused a collision with plaintiffs' vehicle. Plaintiffs sought damages for both bodily injuries and damage to their vehicle. In their answer, defendants admitted that Janet entered the intersection against a red light and that a collision occurred, but denied liability for any damages sustained by plaintiffs. Defendants also admitted that Ronald was the owner of the vehicle that Janet was driving, but denied the existence of an agency relationship between the two.
Plaintiffs moved to transfer the case to the court's arbitration division. The court granted that motion and set a non-binding arbitration hearing for November 19, 1997.
On October 17, 1997, plaintiffs filed requests for admissions of fact pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 216 (134 Ill. 2d R. 216). Plaintiffs sought the admission of seven assertions. Paragraph seven of the requests stated:
"As a direct result of Defendant Janet Chairse disobeying said traffic control signal and proceeding into the intersection against a red light to strike the vehicle driven by Plaintiff Robert Hubeny, Plaintiffs Robert and Melena Hubeny suffered bodily injuries requiring medical expenses in excess of $9,900.00 as well as substantial property damage to their vehicle."
Defendants filed timely responses to plaintiffs' requests, in which they denied several allegations including that in paragraph seven. However, they failed to submit sworn statements specifically denying those matters as required by Rule 216. 134 Ill. 2d R. 216(c). In response to plaintiffs' motion, the trial court ruled that the allegations were deemed admitted.
At the arbitration hearing, the arbitrators awarded Robert a judgment against Janet in the amount of $5,586 for his personal injuries and $4,263 for property damage and awarded Melena a judgment against Janet in the amount of $9,328.50. The arbitrators found that Ronald was not liable to plaintiffs. Defendants filed a notice of rejection of the arbitrators' decision, and the court set a trial date.
Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment in light of the allegations that were deemed to be admitted by defendants. The court denied that motion. However, the complaint was dismissed as to Ronald, who is not a party to this appeal.
At trial, the court first found, based on the allegations deemed to be admitted, that Janet was negligent and liable to plaintiffs for damages including no less than $9,900 in medical expenses. The court then conducted a trial solely on the issue of damages. Both plaintiffs testified. They briefly described how the accident occurred and submitted evidence of their medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering.
During his cross-examination of Robert, Janet's attorney attempted to introduce evidence of a lower back injury that Melena suffered before this accident occurred. Citing Brown v. Baker, 284 Ill. App. 3d 401 (1996), the court refused to permit Janet to explore the issue because she did not have an expert witness who could establish a causal connection between the prior injury and the ones complained of in the current case. Melena later testified that only her neck, shoulder, and arm were injured in this accident; she previously sustained an injury to her lower back, but she had no pain in that area as a result of this accident.
The court awarded Robert a judgment in the amount of $9,714 and awarded Melena a judgment in the amount of $21,219. Janet's motion for a new trial was denied, and she appealed to this court.
Before we reach the merits of the appeal, we must address a motion that was taken with the case. Plaintiffs move to strike defendant's reply to plaintiffs' response to a motion for a new trial and portions of Melena's medical records that are contained in the appendix to Janet's brief. Plaintiffs contend that neither the pleading nor the medical records are contained in the common-law record and that ...