The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning
On a rainy spring afternoon, a passenger car and a postal vehicle made contact in Berwyn, Illinois. Each driver blamed the other, and the parties proceeded to trial without a jury to sort out who was at fault.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), and after carefully observing the trial and reviewing the transcript and trial exhibits, the court enters the following written findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon consideration of all the admissible evidence, as well as the court's own assessment of the credibility of the trial witnesses.
The following facts are based on the testimony elicited at trial, and are undisputed except where noted.
The accident happened on May 15, 2007, on the 1900 block of Grove Avenue in Berwyn. Grove Avenue is a one-way, southbound street with parallel parking permitted along both curbs. Grove Avenue was not on the route on which postal employee Ronald Williams was supposed to have been delivering mail that day, but his girlfriend lived on that street, and Williams stopped there because it was raining heavily and he wanted to dry himself off. (Williams was subpoeaned to testify by both the plaintiffs and the government, but he did not comply with the subpoena. The parties did not ask the court to compel Williams' presence and, instead, they agreed to introduce as evidence a transcript of Williams' deposition.)
At the time of the accident, Williams, having returned to his postal vehicle, was sitting in the driver's seat. The postal vehicle was parked on the west side of Grove Avenue, and the front was "kind of sticking out" at an angle towards the street. Williams Dep. at 30:1-3.
David Furry was driving southbound along the 1900 block of Grove Avenue in a 1978 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon with his two passengers, plaintiff Diane Nye and her daughter Tina. As the station wagon passed the postal vehicle, there was contact made by the two vehicles resulting in the quarter panel and bumper on the right rear side of the station wagon making contact with the bumper on the left front side of the postal vehicle.
Upon impact, the station wagon lurched forward and to the left. The impact pushed Furry into the driver's side door, while Diane Nye was pushed forward into her seatbelt, then jerked back. The jerking motion caused pain around Nye's neck, as well as from her sternum to her right shoulder.
The plaintiffs admit that prior to the impact, they did not see the postal vehicle. They also admit that they did not see the vehicles collide, and did not see what had caused the impact.
After the accident, both vehicles stopped in the road. The parties' descriptions of what happened next diverge. According to the plaintiffs, the postal vehicle stopped behind their car, they both told Williams to call the police because they did not have cell phones, and Williams responded to Nye, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, this is great. I'm going to get fired. I have to get the rest of this mail delivered. I'm sorry." Plaintiffs' Supplemental Statements of Fact [115-1] ¶ 30-36. The plaintiffs stated that Williams then returned to his postal vehicle and fled the scene. Id. ¶ 37.
Meanwhile, according to the government, when Williams got out of the postal vehicle, he spoke only to Furry, offered to pay Furry, but then left without paying believing that no one had been injured. The parties agree that after Williams left the scene, he returned to his assigned route to continue delivering mail, while the plaintiffs drove around for 15-20 minutes in an unsuccessful effort to find him.
About 90 minutes after the accident, and after Furry and Nye had returned to the home they shared, Furry called police to report the accident. Berwyn police officer Tadrowski arrived at the plaintiffs' home and interviewed Furry and Nye for a few minutes. During the interview, the plaintiffs told Officer Tadrowski that Williams had pulled his postal vehicle out from its parking space and struck the back of their station wagon. They also gave the officer the truck number from Williams' vehicle. Nye contends that she told the officer she had a headache, but according to Tadrowski, both Furry and Nye reported that they were fine.
Officer Tadrowski then left the plaintiffs' home and met with postal supervisor Lee Junious. Using the truck number the plaintiffs provided to Officer Tadrowski, Junious determined that Williams was the driver, and Junious and the officer went to view the postal vehicle and talk to Williams, who was still on his route delivering mail. Williams denied any involvement in the accident. However, Officer Tadrowski found damage to ...