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Yokley v. Chicago Transit Authority

August 16, 1999

MYRON YOKLEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Michael J. Murray, Judge Presiding.

This appeal arises from an action brought by plaintiff Myron Yokley against the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for injuries he allegedly suffered when his leg was caught in the doors of a CTA bus. The circuit court granted the CTA's motion for summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff's action for failure to comply with the notice requirements of section 41 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act (70 ILCS 3605/41 (West 1996)). On appeal plaintiff argues that his complaint was improperly dismissed because it substantially complied with the notice requirements of section 41. We affirm.

Plaintiff filed his negligence complaint against the CTA in the circuit court on April 15, 1994. The complaint alleged that on July 15, 1993, at approximately 8:39 p.m., plaintiff suffered injuries when a CTA bus, "at or near 34th Street and [Dr. Martin Luther] King [Jr.] Drive" in Chicago, started to move off from the bus stop before plaintiff had completely exited the vehicle. Plaintiff alleged that he was thrown to the pavement and that his leg was run over by the rear tires of the bus. The complaint attached a copy of the statutory section 41 notice that plaintiff had filed with the CTA within six months of the injury.

The notice listed the date and time of the accident as occurring on "the 15th Day of July, 1993[,] at or about 8:39 P.M. [sic]." The location was listed as "[a]t or near 34th. and King Drive, Chicago, Illinois," and the bus was described as operated by an unknown bus driver "in a northbound direction on King Drive at or near 34th. Street and King Drive." The attending physician was listed as "Medical Personnel at Southeastern Medical Center, 2664 E. 106th. Street, Chicago, Illinois." Plaintiff also listed three hospitals where he had been attended.

In February 1998, the CTA took plaintiff's deposition. In his deposition, plaintiff stated that the time of the accident was between 10 and 10:30 p.m. Plaintiff was on the northbound number 4 Cottage Grove bus, which he had boarded at 75th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. The bus proceeded north on Cottage Grove to 35th Street, turned west on 35th and then north on King Drive. Plaintiff exited the bus on the east side of King Drive, just north of the intersection of 35th Street and King Drive. As plaintiff was exiting the rear doors of the bus, his lower right leg got caught by the doors as the bus pulled away. Plaintiff was thrown to the ground by the force of the bus. His leg came loose from the door but was crushed between the rear tires of the bus and the curb. Plaintiff apparently lost consciousness and remembers little except the presence of paramedics and waking up in the hospital. Although plaintiff underwent surgery and physical therapy, his leg had to be amputated.

On March 23, 1998, the CTA filed a motion for summary judgment. The CTA argued that plaintiff's notice did not strictly comply with the requirements of section 41, because of the discrepancies between the time and location information provided on the statutory notice and in the deposition, and that therefore the action was time-barred. The court held two hearings on the summary judgment motion.

The CTA presented evidence that 34th Street does not intersect with King Drive on either the east or west side of King Drive. The CTA also presented the following evidence regarding bus routes at the time of the injury: both the number 4 Cottage Grove bus and the number 3 King Drive bus traveled north on King Drive; the number 4 Cottage Grove bus had a stop on 35th Street 35 feet before the turn north onto King Drive and its next stop was on King Drive, 15 feet south of 33rd Place; the 33rd Place stop was the only authorized stop for the number 4 Cottage Grove bus between 35th Street and 33rd Place; the number 3 King Drive bus had a stop on King Drive 65 feet north of 35th Street. The CTA also presented evidence that the 33rd Place bus stop is referred to within the CTA as the 34th Street stop.

In response, plaintiff reiterated that the incident happened at a stop north of 35th Street and King Drive. Plaintiff presented evidence that there is no bus stop on the east side of the 3400 block of King Drive; that 34th Street does not intersect King Drive; and that repeated calls by his counsel to the CTA's information line did not elicit a description of the 33rd Place stop as the 34th Street stop.

Plaintiff presented the deposition of the paramedic attending him at the injury site. The paramedic's report listed the location of the accident as 3400 S. King Drive but the paramedic testified that the address on the report was approximate. The paramedic testified that she found the plaintiff on King Drive just north of 35th Street, at a location with no exact address because it was in front of a shopping center.

Plaintiff also presented the deposition of a former CTA summer employee who was one of the bus drivers working the number 4 Cottage Grove bus route on the evening of the accident. The driver stated that "if [he was] correct" and "if [he was] right," there was a Cottage Grove bus stop on 35th Street right before the turn onto King Drive and then another stop immediately after the turn onto King Drive, approximately 50 feet north of 35th Street.

The court entered summary judgment in favor of the CTA, finding that plaintiff's notice was defective because it failed to "accurately specify the place or location where the accident occurred." This appeal followed.

Summary judgment is proper where there are no disputed questions of fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Kennedy v. Four Boys Labor Services, Inc., 279 Ill. App. 3d 361, 365, 664 N.E. 2d 1088, 1090 (1996). The court must consider the pleadings, depositions, affidavits, exhibits, and admissions on file in the case and must construe them strictly against the moving party and liberally in favor of the opponent. Purtill v. Hess, 111 Ill. 2d 229, 240, 489 N.E. 2d 867, 871 (1986). We review the trial court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Kennedy v. Four Boys Labor Services, 279 Ill. App. 3d at 366, 664 N.E. 2d at 1090.

Plaintiff argues that the depositions, affidavits, photographs and diagrams submitted to the court to show the degree of variance between the location stated in the notice and the actual location of the injury create genuine issues of material fact which make summary judgment inappropriate. We note, however, that the court must determine the sufficiency of the notice rather than where the injury actually occurred. Even assuming plaintiff was injured at the 35th Street and King Drive stop by a number 4 Cottage Grove bus making an unauthorized stop, this does not relieve plaintiff of the burden of complying with the terms of section 41.

At the time of plaintiff's accident, section 41 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act provided as follows: "ยง 41. No civil action shall be commenced in any court against the Authority by any person for any injury to his person unless it is commenced within one year from the date that the injury was received or the cause of action accrued. Within six (6) months from the date that such an injury was received or such cause of action accrued, any person who is about to commence any civil action in any court against the Authority for damages on account of any injury to his person shall file in the office of the secretary of the Board and also in the office of the General Counsel for the Authority either by himself, his agent, or attorney, a statement, in writing, signed by himself, his agent, or attorney, giving the name of the person to whom the cause of action has accrued, the name and residence of the person injured, the date and about the hour of the accident, the place or location where the accident occurred and the name and address of the attending physician, if any. If the notice provided for by ...


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