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First Springfield Bank & Trust v. Galman

October 21, 1999

FIRST SPRINGFIELD BANK & TRUST, AS SPECIAL ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF MAY F. PHILLIPPART, DECEASED, APPELLEE, V. ANGELA S.GALMAN ET AL. (HOWARD C. DOBSON ET AL., APPELLANTS).


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rathje

-Agenda 28-May 1999.

delivered the opinion of the court:

The primary issue in this case is whether defendants' negligence was the proximate cause of May Phillippart's fatal injuries. We hold that it was not.

BACKGROUND

The relevant facts are not in dispute. Howard C. Dobson drove a tanker truck for ADM Trucking, Inc. (hereinafter, ADM). Around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, November 21, 1989, Dobson parked his truck on the north side of Lawrence Avenue, 41 feet from the intersection of English Street, in Springfield. Although Lawrence Avenue is a four-lane designated truck route on which parking is permitted at certain times of the day, parking is not permitted on the north side of Lawrence Avenue between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Shortly after Dobson parked his truck, May Phillippart, an 18-year- old foreign exchange student from France, began walking south on English Street. At the intersection of English and Lawrence, Phillippart did not cross Lawrence in the marked crosswalk. Instead, she turned right and headed west on Lawrence, walking 41 feet plus the full length of the truck before deciding to cross. When she reached the front of Dobson's parked truck at mid-block, Phillippart entered Lawrence Avenue, walked to the front driver's side of the truck, and waited for traffic to clear so that she could cross to south side of the street. After taking 1½ slow steps into the center westbound lane of Lawrence Avenue, Phillippart began running at a 45-degree angle across the street. At about the center line of Lawrence Avenue, Phillippart was struck by the front passenger's side of a car driven by Angela Galman. Section 80.04 of the City of Springfield Code provides that "[p]edestrian crossings between intersections shall be prohibited in the interest of public safety, except where there may be a marked crosswalk."

Phillippart remained in a near comatose state until July 7, 1991, when she died from her injuries. Following Phillippart's death, the National Health Service of France paid her estate $452,794.82 as compensation for Phillippart's medical expenses.

First Springfield Bank & Trust, acting on behalf of Phillippart's estate, sued Galman, Dobson, and ADM for negligence. In addition, First Springfield sued Dobson and ADM for violating section 5 of the Public Nuisance Act, which makes it a public nuisance "[t]o obstruct or encroach upon public highways." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 100½, par. 26(5) (now 720 ILCS 5/47-5(5) (West 1998)). The jury entered a general verdict, finding that Phillippart's damages totaled $1 million and that Phillippart was 45% at fault. Accordingly, the jury awarded First Springfield $550,000. Pursuant to section 2-1205.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1205.1 (West 1998)), Dobson and ADM moved to reduce the jury award to reflect the amount paid to Phillippart's estate by the National Health Service of France. Dobson and ADM also moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on all counts. The trial court denied the motions.

The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. 299 Ill. App. 3d 751. In Dissent, Justice Steigmann concluded that Dobson and ADM are entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the illegally parked tanker truck was not the proximate cause of Phillippart's injuries. Instead, the truck constituted merely a condition that allowed Phillippart's injuries to occur. 299 Ill. App. 3d at 764 (Steigmann, J., Dissenting).

ADM and Dobson now appeal from the appellate court's judgment, arguing that they are entitled to a judgment notwithstanding the verdict on (1) all claims because the illegally parked truck was not the proximate cause of Phillippart's injuries; (2) the negligence claim because they owed no duty of care to Phillippart, who was illegally jaywalking when the accident occurred; and (3) the public nuisance claim because plaintiff failed to establish the existence of either a public nuisance or a private right of action under section 5 of the Public Nuisance Act. In the alternative, ADM and Dobson argue that they are entitled to a reduction in the jury award to reflect the amount paid to Phillippart's estate by the National Health Service of France. First Springfield also appeals, arguing that the jury's award should not have been reduced by 45% because, although comparative negligence is a defense to a negligence claim, it is not a defense to a public nuisance claim.

This court granted leave to appeal, and jurisdiction exists under Supreme Court Rule 315 (177 Ill. 2d R. 315).

ANALYSIS

To recover damages based upon a defendant's alleged negligence, a plaintiff must allege and prove that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, that defendant breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. Thompson v. County of Cook, 154 Ill. 2d 374, 382 (1993). To recover damages based upon a defendant's alleged statutory violation, a plaintiff must show that (1) she belongs to the class of persons that the statute was designed to protect; (2) her injury is of the type that the statute was designed to prevent; and (3) the violation proximately caused her injury. Kalata v. Anheuser-Busch Cos., 144 Ill. 2d 425, 434-35 (1991).

Dobson and ADM argue that they are entitled to a judgment notwithstanding the verdict on all counts because the illegally parked tanker truck was not a proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. Because proximate cause ordinarily is a question for the trier of fact, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict cannot be granted on that basis unless "all of the evidence, when viewed in its aspect most favorable to the opponent, so overwhelmingly favors movant that no ...


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