Appeal fromCircuit Court of Sangamon County No. 09LM474 Honorable Chris Perrin and April Troemper, Judges Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook
Carla Bender 4th District Appellate Court, IL
JUSTICE COOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Appleton and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 In March 2009, plaintiff, Bradley Cundiff, sued defendant, Gunvant Patel, for negligence. In July 2010, defendant filed a motion in limine barring evidence relating to conversations between plaintiff and defendant's liability insurance provider. The trial court granted the motion. In September 2011, a jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff for $3,054.
¶ 2 Plaintiff appeals, arguing the trial court erred by granting defendant's motion in limine barring evidence of a conversation between plaintiff and defendant's liability insurance provider. We reverse.
¶ 4 On March 30, 2009, plaintiff filed a negligence action against defendant alleging defendant negligently caused injuries resulting from an April 17, 2008, motor vehicle accident.
¶ 5 On July 9, 2010, defendant filed a motion in limine requesting the trial court to prohibit plaintiff from introducing evidence referring to insurance and all evidence relating to conversations between plaintiff and any State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance adjuster. Attached to the motion was an activity log for Aimee Waldron, a State Farm employee, dated June 18, 2008. The activity log states:
"[S]poke with [plaintiff] and he states that he continues to have problems with neck and may seek chiro[pratic] treatment at this time[.] [E]xplain[ed] that we will hold bills that we have and we will follow up in 30-45 days to find out status of injury claim[.]"
Plaintiff argued the motion in limine should be denied because the communication between plaintiff and Waldron was relevant to show plaintiff indicated that he continued to experience neck problems between the accident and August 11, 2008, the date he sought chiropractic treatment; and the evidence could be introduced without indicating Waldron was an adjuster for State Farm. Judge Chris Perrin granted defendant's motion in limine.
¶ 6 In September 2011, Judge April G. Troemper held a jury trial. Evidence presented at trial is summarized as follows. On April 17, 2008, at approximately 5:30 p.m., plaintiff was traveling along Burns Lane in Springfield, Illinois. He was traveling at approximately 40 miles per hour in his 1998 Saturn sedan when the vehicle in front of him suddenly stopped. After plaintiff stopped his car, defendant struck plaintiff's car in the rear with his 1999 Nissan Quest minivan. At the time, defendant was traveling approximately 30 miles per hour. Plaintiff's car made contact with the vehicle in front of him and suffered damage to both the front and rear end.
¶ 7 Plaintiff did not immediately seek medical attention. The next day, April 18, 2008, he went to Koke Mill Memorial Express Care (Express Care) and was treated by Dr. Rajesh Srinivasan. Plaintiff complained of pain to his neck, chest, and wrist. An X-ray was performed on plaintiff's shoulder and neck area. The X-ray indicated straightening of the normal cervical lordosis (cervical lordosis is the forward curvature of the cervical spine), loss of spinal disc height at spinal vertebrae C5-C6 and C6-C7, and moderate to severe neural foraminal stenosis at C6-C7 (neural foraminal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column). By deposition, Srinivasan opined the straightening of the cervical lordosis resulted from plaintiff straightening his neck because of neck pain, and the loss of spinal disc height and the foraminal stenosis could result from a degenerative condition. Srinivasan prescribed ibuprofen and Skelaxin (Skelaxin is a brand of prescription muscle relaxant medication). Srinivasan instructed plaintiff to consult his primary physician if the pain continued. Plaintiff incurred $1,054 in charges for his treatment on April 18, 2008.
¶ 8 On May 22, 2008, plaintiff sought medical treatment at Express Care for allergic complications resulting from buffalo gnat bites on his scalp (buffalo gnats are commonly known as black flies). Plaintiff again saw Srinivasan. During this visit, plaintiff did not mention suffering from neck pain to Srinivasan. On June 19, 2008, plaintiff sought medical treatment at Express Care for conjunctivitis. Plaintiff ...