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David Furry v. United States of America

March 17, 2011

DAVID FURRY
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



Name of Assigned Judge Blanche M. Manning Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge than Assigned Judge

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

Defendant United States of America's motion for summary judgment [83-1] is denied. The parties shall report for a status hearing on March 31, 2011, at 11:00 a.m., and shall be prepared to set a date for trial.

O [ For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.

00:00

STATEMENT

As plaintiff David Furry drove down Grove Street in Chicago, he felt an impact to the rear passenger side of his 1987 Ford LTD station wagon. The force of the impact threw him into the driver's side window, while his two passengers, plaintiffs Diane and Tina Nye, were also injured. Furry and the Nyes contend that the collision occurred when postal employee Ronald Williams pulled his postal vehicle out of its parking space just as Furry was driving by. The plaintiffs have sued the United States for negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-2680. The United States has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are agreed except where noted. Ronald Williams began working as a U.S. postal carrier in March 2007. On May 15, 2007, he was assigned to deliver mail in the area designated by the postal service as Route 8 in Berwyn. Williams began delivering mail on Route 8 just before 1:00 p.m., but nearly a quarter-inch of rain fell during his first two hours on that route and by 3:00 p.m., he had become uncomfortably wet. He decided to leave his route and stop by a friend's house, who lived on the 1900 block of Grove Avenue in Berwyn. The 1900 block of Grove Avenue is not within the Route 8 delivery area, and somewhere between 3 to 7 blocks outside of Route 8.

Williams parked his postal vehicle on the right hand side of Grove Avenue. Williams contends that he parked at a slight angle, with the front driver's side of his vehicle extending out into the street a little. The plaintiffs contend that they did not see Williams' vehicle before the collision, but state that they did not see any postal vehicle parked with its front end sticking out. At about 3:30 p.m., Furry's car drove down the 1900 block of Grove Avenue at about 15 miles per hour while rain continued to fall. As Furry's car passed Williams' vehicle, the cars collided. Furry's car was damaged on the rear passenger's side of the car. The impact threw Furry's shoulder into the window of the driver's side door. He has undergone multiple surgeries on his shoulder and anticipates additional surgery. Diane Nye's injuries have also required surgery.

The parties do not agree on the cause of the collision. The plaintiffs contend that the vehicles collided when Williams started to pull out of the parking space just as Furry's car drove by, though they admit that they did not see Furry or even the postal vehicle. Williams denies that he drove into Furry's car and, in fact, contends that at the time of the impact, he had only just put his key in the ignition and started the vehicle's engine.

After the collision, Furry pulled his car to the side of the road and got out of his car. Williams pulled his postal vehicle up behind Furry's car, and got out of the vehicle. According to the plaintiffs, Furry asked Williams to call the police but, when Furry began to approach Williams, Williams urged them not to call police because he would lose his job. Williams then returned to the postal vehicle and drove off in order to lose Furry. Williams returned to his postal route and continued delivering the mail.

Following the accident, Furry drove the car to Lyons to drop off Tina Nye and then returned to the home he shared with Diane Nye on the 1600 block of Grove Avenue. After returning home, Furry first called police, who came to his home, along with a postal inspector, to investigate the accident. While at Furry's home, the postal inspector took pictures of damage to the rear passenger side of Furry's car. The police officer later went to the scene of the collision, but found no evidence of an accident. Eventually, the officer issued four tickets to Williams for his alleged role in the accident, including citations for leaving the scene of an accident and improper lane usage. The plaintiffs contend that Williams pleaded guilty to the citations for leaving the scene of an accident and improper lane usage, but in support of their contention the plaintiffs cite the tickets themselves, which do not include any obvious disposition of the citations.

The plaintiffs have filed a three-count complaint under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Each count is brought by an individual plaintiff, alleging that the negligence of the United States (acting through Williams) was responsible for the collision and their injuries. Specifically, they allege that by pulling out of his parking spot and hitting Furry's car, Williams breached his duty to (1) exercise reasonable care while operating his vehicle, (2) keep an adequate lookout while operating his vehicle, (3) operate his vehicle at a reasonable speed, (4) sound his horn when reasonably necessary to ensure the safety of others, (5) yield the right-of-way to other vehicles, and/or (5) reduce his speed to avoid a collision. They seek damages in the amount of $20 million. The United States has moved for summary judgment on all three counts. It argues that it is entitled to judgment because ...


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