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Chapman v. Hubbard Woods Motors

June 09, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 96 L 3585. Honorable James S. Quinlan, Jr., Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hall

[8]  The plaintiffs, Audrey Chapman and Clifford C. Chapman, filed a lawsuit against the defendants, S & G Design Corporation and Oscar O. Guzman, seeking damages for injuries suffered by Audrey that were allegedly caused by a truck owned by S & G. Following a jury trial, the plaintiffs were awarded $3,048 for medical expenses.*fn1 The jury made no award for pain and suffering. The trial court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a new trial, and the plaintiffs appeal.

[9]  On appeal, the plaintiffs raise the following issues: whether the trial judge's erroneous evidentiary rulings denied them a fair trial and whether the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

[10]   At the outset, we note that, prior to the commencement of the trial in this case, the defendants admitted negligence. However, the defendants did not admit that any act or omission on their part was the proximate cause of Audrey's injuries.

[11]   The evidence pertinent to the issues raised on appeal is summarized below.

[12]   Audrey testified as follows.

[13]   On December 16, 1994, Audrey was at Hubbard Woods Motors waiting to have the battery in her car changed. She was seated on a bench located against a window. There were some tires stacked against the window on the outside of the building. While seated, Audrey was knocked off the bench, which struck her back. She ended up on the floor. Turning to see what had knocked her off the bench, she observed a large shard of glass separating from the window. Audrey also observed tires in the showroom and that a corner of a van was through the glass. The bench she was sitting on was jutting out into the middle of the room.

[14]   When the paramedics arrived, Audrey told them that her back and neck hurt. The paramedics put a collar on her neck and took her to Highland Park Hospital.

[15]   At the emergency room, Audrey was examined and X rays were taken. The emergency room doctor prescribed a muscle relaxant, and she was discharged from the hospital that evening. The next day, she had a large bruise on her arm.

[16]   On December 18, 1994, because the pain had increased, Audrey contacted her regular physician, Dr. Weiner, who prescribed pain medication. Approximately a week later, Audrey again contacted Dr. Weiner, telling him that the pain was not going away. Dr. Weiner sent Audrey for physical therapy.

[17]   After five or six weeks, the physical therapy was not working. On the recommendation of a friend, Audrey saw Dr. Mardjetko, an orthopedic surgeon,. After Dr. Mardjetko examined her, he referred her to Dr. Reddy, who gave her an injection in her left hip. However, the injection increased the pain. Dr. Reddy referred her back to Dr. Mardjetko, who sent her for physical therapy. However, the physical therapy made her feel worse.

[18]   On the recommendation of her attorney, Audrey was examined by Dr. Young. At that time, she was experiencing pain in her neck, shoulders and back. Dr. Young recommended different types of corsets and prescribed exercises and medication. Dr. Young also gave her acupuncture treatments in her back and shoulders, which gave her instant, albeit not lasting, relief.

[19]   In late October or early November 1995, Audrey went to the emergency room complaining of stomach problems. Dr. Weiner referred her to Dr. Ingalls, who prescribed medications for her stomach and performed a procedure at the hospital on her to try to determine the source of the problem.

[20]   In November 1995, on the recommendation of a friend, Audrey saw Dr. Reynolds, a chiropractor. She complained of pain in her stomach, shoulders, and back, particularly the lower back. Dr. Reynolds treated her until 1998.

[21]   After reading an article about holistic medicine, Audrey went to see Dr. Filice, a holistic doctor. Dr. Filice gave her natural vitamins and supplements. He also gave her a prescription for cytomel, a thyroid drug. Audrey denied that she was having any problem with her thyroid at that time.

[22]   In 1997, Dr. Young referred Audrey to Dr. Rothke, a psychologist. After the initial visit, she did not see Dr. Rothke for a year. On her second visit, Dr. Rothke administered some written tests and referred Audrey to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC).

[23]   In January 1998, Audrey attended RIC for pain therapy for four weeks. At RIC, she was treated by Dr. Harden and Dr. Cole, who was a psychologist. Audrey learned to work around her pain and to keep her anxiety level down.

[24]   After her discharge from RIC, Audrey was treated by Drs. Young, Weiner, and Rothke.

[25]   In 2000, after being rechecked by Dr. Harden, she was seen by Dr. Pliskin, who gave her written tests and talked to her. She last saw Drs. Young and Rothke in January 2001.

[26]   Audrey acknowledged that, prior to the 1994 accident, she had been treated by Dr. Rana, a chiropractor, after she injured her shoulder bowling. She saw Dr. Rana between 1980 and 1990. Since her pain continued, Dr. Rana recommended that she see a medical doctor. Although her pain was almost gone at that point, she saw Dr. Spencer in 1990. Dr. Spenser recommended rest.

[27]   Prior to 1994, Audrey suffered from headaches and sinus problems. After she was treated for allergies, her symptoms were greatly alleviated.

[28]   In 1990, Dr. Weiner referred Audrey to Dr. Mary Moran, a rheumatologist, for treatment of rotator cuff tendonitis. Dr. Moran gave her medication for her tendonitis and treated her for a back problem. After seeing Dr. Moran, her neck, back and shoulders felt fine.

[29]   None of the doctors Audrey saw diagnosed her with fibromyaligia. When she was admitted to RIC, the diagnosis was myofascial pain syndrome. When she was released from RIC, she was diagnosed as having posttrauma disorder syndrome and depression. Prior to December 16, 1994, she had never been diagnosed or treated for posttraumatic stress syndrome or had any kind of psychological or psychiatric counseling.

[30]   Audrey's relationship with Clifford, her husband, and her children was negatively impacted by her condition following the December 16, 1994, accident. However, the relationships improved after her treatment at RIC. The accident negatively impacted her sleep patterns, and she suffered from nightmares. The nightmares have lessened over time.

[31]   After the accident, Audrey had less energy. She could no longer participate in social activities with her husband. She became paralyzed with fear when a window shook and when, on one occasion, someone knocked a wineglass against a microphone to make a point. She could no longer concentrate to work at her advertising specialty job. It was difficult to do housework, but RIC taught her how to perform certain tasks

[32]   According to Audrey, the pain she experienced after the accident was quite different from the pain she had suffered prior to the accident. The pain after the accident was constant, not episodic. She continued to feel pain in her lower back every day. She could sometimes go two hours without feeling pain.

[33]   On cross-examination, Audrey testified as follows.

[34]   Audrey acknowledged that, prior to 1994, she had been experiencing back pain and pain in her left shoulder and that she had been experiencing neck pain for 20 years prior to the accident. She also acknowledged that she had difficulties sleeping prior to the 1994 accident. In 1990, Dr. Rana treated Audrey for lower back pain.

[35]   Regarding the accident, Audrey was seated on the bench closest to where the tires were found. She denied sitting on the other bench in the lobby. She received the bruise to her left arm as a result of the accident, but she did not remember how she sustained the ...

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