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Black v. Laggren

May 02, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 94 L 8404 The Honorable Edward Burr, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Cousins

This action resulted from an automobile accident that occurred when the car driven by defendant Robert Laggren collided with the rear of a stopped pickup truck being driven by plaintiff Mary Pavkovich. Plaintiff Diane Floros was a passenger in the truck. A jury returned a verdict for defendant and against plaintiffs on liability. The plaintiffs appeal, contending that the evidence presented proved defendant's liability overwhelmingly. Plaintiffs also contend that the defense counsel made improper remarks that prejudiced the jury. The trial court refused to either grant plaintiffs motion for a directed verdict on the issue of liability or enter a judgment n.o.v. or grant a new trial. We affirm.


On September 30, 1992, Diane Floros (Floros) was the passenger in a General Motors pickup truck driven by Mary Pavkovich. Floros' brother, Tony Floros, was the owner of the truck. The two women were driving southbound on McCormick Avenue, toward Oakton Street, in Skokie, Illinois. Pavkovich testified that, as they approached the intersection, traffic was stopped because of a red light. According to the plaintiffs, there were a number of cars in front of them, and they stopped approximately 200 feet from the intersection.

Robert Laggren was driving a car southbound on McCormick Avenue when his car collided with the rear of the truck. According to Laggren, he was looking down to adjust his radio prior to the accident. When he looked up, there was not enough time to avoid the collision.

Both plaintiffs testified that they were injured from the impact of the collision. Floros claimed loss of consciousness. Pavkovich exited the truck to assess its damage and to call the police. Pavkovich testified that she noticed extensive damage to the front area of Laggren's car and damage to the truck's bumper and taillights. Laggren testified that he asked the plaintiffs if they were hurt. They said no.

The paramedics arrived at the accident scene and checked the women. Both women signed waivers against medical advice and drove home. They stated that they returned home to return the truck to Tony Floros, who was returning to Indiana that evening.

The next morning the plaintiffs went to the emergency room at Edgewater Hospital. They were admitted for two days of testing and observation. They were treated by Dr. Ojea, whom both knew. Dr. Rubinstein, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Burnstine, a neurologist, also treated the plaintiffs during their stay.

After leaving the hospital, the plaintiffs received physical therapy at Edgewater, as requested by Dr. Ojea. On their own, they began seeing a chiropractor, Dr. Kazonis. Pavkovich later received treatment at Illinois Masonic Medical Center for swelling and pain in her chest area, which she attributed to injuries received during the collision. Pavkovich was subsequently terminated from two jobs. She claims that she was terminated because the injuries sustained during the accident prevented her from adequately performing her job duties.



Verdicts ought to be directed and judgments n.o.v. entered only in those cases in which all of the evidence, when viewed in its aspect most favorable to the opponent, so overwhelmingly favors movant that no contrary verdict based on that evidence could ever stand. Pedrick v. Peoria & Eastern R.R. Co., 37 Ill. 2d 494, 510, 229 N.E.2d 504, 513 (1967). The plaintiffs argue that the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to Laggren, overwhelmingly favors the plaintiffs on the issue of liability. For the reasons that follow, we disagree and hold that the court did not err in refusing to grant either a directed verdict or a judgment n.o.v.

A plaintiff may recover in a negligence action only by proving each element of the action, i.e., the existence of a duty, a breach of that duty, an injury proximately resulting from the breach, and damages. Lucker v. Arlington Park Race Track Corp., 142 Ill. App. 3d 872, 873, 492 N.E.2d 536, 538 (1986). As a driver who was following another vehicle, the defendant, Laggren, had a duty to follow plaintiffs at a sufficient speed and distance so that he could stop or slow down suddenly if necessary. A driver must also maintain a safe lookout for traffic ahead. Hickox v. Erwin, 101 Ill. App. 3d 585, 588, 428 N.E.2d 520, 522 (1981). It is disputed as to why the plaintiffs were stopped, but this does not negate Laggren's duty to maintain a lookout and to be prepared to stop suddenly. In our view Laggren breached his duty of care. This is because he admitted that he was looking down to adjust his radio, for however short a time, and was not keeping a proper lookout at the time the collision occurred.

However, although Laggren breached his duty of care, based on the evidence, we cannot say that a reasonable jury could not find against the plaintiffs on the issue of liability. This is because weighing the evidence and deciding the credibility of the witnesses are the province of the jury. People ex rel. Brown v. Baker, 88 Ill. 2d 81, 85, 430 N.E.2d 1126, 1127 (1981). And, the record in this case establishes that numerous factual issues were raised ...

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