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Carlson v. Chicago Transit Auth.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

May 9, 2014

ROLLAND CARLSON and BARBARA CARLSON, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, a Municipal Corporation; and STEVEN MIXON, Individually and as Agent and/or Employee of Chicago Transit Authority, Defendants-Appellees

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 L 2471. Honorable Drella C. Savage, Judge Presiding.

SYLLABUS

Summary judgment was properly entered for defendant transit authority in an action alleging that the driver of the bus plaintiffs boarded stopped suddenly to avoid a cab that pulled in front of the bus and caused plaintiffs to be thrown to the floor of the bus as they were looking for seats, notwithstanding plaintiffs' contentions that the bus driver was not properly trained, was negligent in failing to control the bus, and was accelerating unsafely from the stop to pick up plaintiffs, since plaintiffs offered no evidence that the driver was operating the bus in an unreasonable or negligent way or that the abrupt braking was the result of his negligence; rather, the sudden stop was due to the actions of the cab suddenly pulling from the curb without warning and cutting in front of the bus.

For Plaintffs-Appellants: James J. Morici, Jr., Michael G. Miller, of counsel, Morici, Figlioli & Associates, Chicago, IL.

For Defendants-Appellees: Karen G Seimetz, General Counsel of the Chicago Transit Authority, Stephen Wood, Deputy General Counsel, Rachel Kaplan, Chief Attorney, of counsel, Chicago, IL.

JUSTICE LAMPKIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Rochford and Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 427

LAMPKIN, JUSTICE.

[¶1] In this personal injury action, plaintiffs Rolland and Barbara Carlson sued defendants, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Steven Mixon, a CTA employee, for negligence concerning injuries plaintiffs sustained when they were passengers on a CTA bus driven by Mixon. Defendants moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted that motion.

[¶2] Plaintiffs appealed, contending summary judgment was precluded by the existence of genuine issues of material fact as to whether the driver was negligent for overreacting to a potential collision and slamming on the brakes in a hard and sudden manner.

[¶3] We affirm the judgment of the circuit court, which did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of defendants. We hold that there was no evidence establishing any negligent conduct by defendants, there were no genuine issues of material fact, and defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

[¶4] I. BACKGROUND

[¶5] On the afternoon of December 12, 2009, plaintiffs boarded a CTA bus that was driven by defendant Mixon and was traveling northbound on Michigan Avenue. Plaintiffs paid their fare and were walking in the aisle and looking for two seats together. There were three lanes for northbound traffic, and Mixon drove the bus from the curb and merged into the middle lane. The bus traveled approximately 60 to 80 feet in the middle lane when Mixon immediately applied the brakes after seeing a taxicab cut into the middle lane in front of the bus from the curb lane. As a result of the sudden stop, Mrs. Carlson fell

Page 428

in the aisle onto her back and hit her head on the floor of the bus. She lost consciousness for a few seconds. Mr. Carlson was thrown to the front of the bus. He was unconscious and bleeding from the top of his head and mouth.

[¶6] Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging negligence against defendants for: operating the bus in a manner that caused plaintiffs to be thrown to the bus floor; failing to properly train and supervise Mixon in the safe operation of a bus; failing to maintain reasonable control over the bus; and causing the bus to accelerate from a stop when it was not safe to do so.

[¶7] In their answers, defendants denied the allegations of negligence and asserted the affirmative defense of comparative negligence. Specifically, defendants alleged plaintiffs failed to take proper hold of available railings or hand bars, failed to sit in available seats, and were otherwise careless or negligent.

[¶8] Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that there were no genuine issues of material fact and plaintiffs could not make a prima facie case of negligence against defendants. Specifically, defendants argued that plaintiffs could not establish that Mixon failed to exercise due care when operating the bus because another vehicle suddenly cut off the bus in which plaintiffs were standing passengers. In addition to the pleadings and a videotape of the incident, defendants attached to the motion the depositions of defendant Mixon, eyewitnesses Sally Jo Gerard and Marsha Kremer, and plaintiffs Mr. and Mrs. Carlson.

[¶9] Defendant Mixon testified that he has been licensed and trained to operate the bus since April 2006 and described the conditions of his training and supervision. At the time of the incident, traffic was fairly heavy. The weather was clear, the streets were dry, and the visibility was good. A few seconds after plaintiffs boarded the bus, Mixon closed the doors and slowly proceeded away from the bus stop. He drove northbound on Michigan Avenue and continuously scanned the road for traffic and checked his rear-view mirror to monitor any problems with his passengers. Mixon was very familiar with this Michigan Avenue route. Less than 10 seconds after he pulled away from the bus stop, he merged into the middle lane. Mixon commonly used the middle lane to avoid being stuck in the curb lane behind right-turning vehicles. His bus was ...


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