United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
June 22, 2004.
JAMES E. KNIGHT, Plaintiff,
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., SCHNEIDER NATIONAL LEASING, INC, and MARJIE THOMPSON, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MORAN, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff James E. Knight brought this action against the
defendants alleging negligence, and claiming that he suffered
serious injuries to his left arm, wrist and shoulder. Defendant
Marjie Thompson filed a motion to dismiss the claim against her
(count III), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). For the following reasons, defendant's motion is
The facts are taken from plaintiff's complaint. On January 12,
2001, defendant Thompson was driving a tractor-trailer leased by
defendant Schneider National Carriers, Inc. from Schneider
National Leasing, Inc. While traveling westbound on 55th
Street in the City of Chicago, Thompson allegedly caused the
vehicle to become wedged under a viaduct at 2140 West 55th
Street. Approximately 12 hours later, the truck was still stuck
under the viaduct and the plaintiff, a sergeant in the Chicago
Police Department, was called to the scene. Upon arriving,
Thompson told the plaintiff that she did not know how to free the
truck from the viaduct but that she had called her employer and a tow truck was
on the way.
Thompson then asked plaintiff to help her free the truck and
the plaintiff did so. At that time, defendant Thompson asked
plaintiff to help her back the vehicle down a cross street so
that she could turn it around. While trying to back the vehicle
into a cross street, plaintiff exited the truck to check the
clearance and was injured when the grab bar came loose, causing
him to fall onto the pavement.
In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court
assumes the truth of all wellpleaded allegations, making all
inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Sidney S. Arst Co. v.
Pipefitters Welfare Educ. Fund, 25 F.3d 417, 420 (7th Cir.
1994). The court should dismiss a claim only if it appears
"beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in
support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). While the complaint does
not need to provide the correct legal theory to withstand a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it must allege all of the elements necessary to
recover. Ellsworth v. City of Racine, 774 F.2d 182, 184
(7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1047 (1986).
Defendant first claims that we should dismiss the claim against
her because she owed no duty to plaintiff. To state a claim for
negligence, the plaintiff must allege that defendant owed a duty
to plaintiff, that defendant breached that duty, and that the
breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. First
Springfield Bank & Trust v. Galman, 720 N.E.2d 1068, 1071 (Ill.
1999). Whether a duty to the plaintiff exists is a question of
law, to be resolved by the court. Friedman v. City of Chicago,
777 N.E.2d 430, 432 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 2002). Although defendant
likely satisfied her statutory obligations as a truck driver, she
was not exempt from a general duty as a driver to others on the
road. Plaintiff was responsible for maintaining and operating her vehicle in a safe manner so as not
to damage other people or their property. This duty includes
knowing how to avoid dangerous situations and how to remedy
danger should she find herself in such a situation. Whether or
not she breached this duty is a question of fact to be decided at
a later stage.
Defendant next claims that we should dismiss the claim because
plaintiff's injuries were not proximately caused by any
wrongdoing. Unlike duty, the issue of proximate cause is a
question of fact and generally reserved for the jury. First
Springfield, 720 N.E.2d at 1071. The test that should be applied
is whether the wrongdoing might reasonably have anticipated the
ultimate result and the harm to the plaintiff. Id. In First
Springfield, the plaintiff, acting on behalf of an estate,
brought suit alleging negligence because defendant's employee
illegally parked a vehicle. Id. at 1070. The deceased tried to
go around the vehicle and cross the street but was struck and
killed by another vehicle. Id. In reversing a jury decision the
Illinois Supreme Court determined that while defendant's actions
constituted a cause in fact of plaintiff's injuries, they were
not the proximate cause. Id. at 1073. Instead, the court found
that those actions merely created a condition for the injuries to
In doing so, however, the court cited approvingly to Scerba v.
City of Chicago, 672 N.E.2d 312 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 1996). In
Scerba, a city bus driver improperly stopped his bus in the
middle of a crosswalk, completely blocking it. Id. at 314. As a
result, a boy was forced to cross the street by walking in front
of the bus and, while doing so, was hit by a car. Id. The
appellate court reversed summary judgment for the driver's
employer, finding that a reasonable jury could have found the
boy's decision to cross in front of the bus to be a foreseeable
consequence of blocking the crosswalk. Id. at 316.
In light of the above holdings, defendant's motion is denied.
We believe that it is possible for a reasonable jury to find that plaintiff's injuries
were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of defendant's alleged
negligence. The jury may conclude that one likely result of
getting a truck stuck under a viaduct was for someone to be
injured while attempting to help. Of course, a reasonable jury
may also come to the opposite conclusion. At this stage, however,
plaintiff states a claim for relief.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant Marjie Thompson's motion
to dismiss is denied.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.