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Hammond v. System Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

April 26, 2013

CURTIS J. HAMMOND, JR., as Independent Administrator of the Estate of CURTIS J. HAMMOND, SR., Deceased, and CURTIS J. HAMMOND, JR., as Independent Administrator of the Estate of EILEEN M. HAMMOND, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
SYSTEM TRANSPORT, INC., a Washington corporation, TRANS-SYSTEM, INC., an Indiana corporation, and ROBERT D. AUSTIN, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Curtis J Hammond, Jr, as Independent Administrator of the Estates of CURTIS J. HAMMOND, SR., Deceased and EILEEN M. HAMMOND, Deceased, Plaintiff: Edmund J Scanlan, SCANLAN LAW GROUP, Chicago, IL.

For System Transport, Inc., a Washington corporation, Trans-System, Inc., a Washington corporation, Robert D Austin, Defendants: Beth Kamp Veath, LEAD ATTORNEY, BROWN & JAMES PC, Belleville, IL; Andrew Thomas Bell, Matthew S Hefflefinger, HEYL ROYSTER VOELKER & ALLEN, Peoria, IL.

OPINION

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ORDER & OPINION

JOE BILLY McDADE, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion in Limine (Doc. 52) and Defendants' Motion for Protective Order (Doc. 53). Plaintiff filed Responses in opposition to both Motions (Docs. 55 & 56). [1] For the reasons stated below, both Motions are denied in part and granted in part.

Background[2]

On July 30, 2011, a semi-tractor trailer driven by Defendant Robert Austin collided with a vehicle driven by Curtis J. Hammond, Sr. at the intersection of U.S. Routes 136 and 24 in Fulton County, Illinois. Defendant Austin was an employee of Defendants System Transport, Inc., and Trans-System, Inc., who owned, operated, and maintained the semi-tractor trailer. Both Curtis J. Hammond, Sr. and Eileen M. Hammond, the passenger of the vehicle, died as a result of the crash.

Plaintiff Curtis J. Hammond, Jr., as the Administrator of the Estates of Curtis J. Hammond, Sr. and Eileen M. Hammond, filed a ten-count First Amended Complaint against Defendants on August 29, 2011. (Doc. 5). Counts I, III, V, and VII seek recovery under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 180/1 et seq. Defendants have admitted liability with respect to these wrongful death claims, [3] but dispute the extent of damages. Counts IX and X seek recovery under the Illinois Survival Act, 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/27-6. In the pending Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants seek dismissal of these two claims as a matter of law. Counts II, IV, VI, and VIII were previously dismissed upon Defendants' motion. (Doc. 34).

Discussion

Both of Defendants' Motions primarily revolve around one question: What evidence is relevant to prove damages for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering in an Illinois Wrongful Death Act claim? Defendants contend that evidence of the

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events and circumstances leading up to and including the vehicle accident are irrelevant and inadmissible. Plaintiff disagrees, arguing that under the amended version of the Wrongful Death Act, allowing for damages for the emotional impact of the death, evidence of the circumstances of the accident is relevant.

Defendants rely almost exclusively on the holding of one case in support of their Motions. They argue that the Illinois Supreme Court has held that evidence of the events leading up to an accident and the defendant's failure to stop afterwards are not relevant to a claim for damages under the Wrongful Death Act. Bullard v. Barnes, 102 Ill.2d 505, 468 N.E.2d 1228, 1235, 82 Ill.Dec. 448 (Ill. 1984), aff'g 112 Ill.App.3d 384, 445 N.E.2d 485, 68 Ill.Dec. 37 (Ill.App.Ct. 1983). Further, in the appellate decision, the court stated that any evidence of the " means of his demise and the operative facts of the accident were immaterial." Bullard, 445 N.E.2d at 492. As a result, Defendants argue, 1) any evidence of or reference to the circumstances leading up to and including the accident should be excluded at trial (Doc. 52 at 1); and 2) any information Defendant Austin could provide at a deposition would be irrelevant to Plaintiff's claim and thus such a deposition would serve only to annoy embarrass, ...


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