United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE.
Court held a bench trial in this negligence case in Benton,
Illinois, on June 28, 2016. Plaintiff Brian Gregory appeared
pro se, assisted by stand-by counsel Eric W.
Kirkpatrick. Defendants Fed Ex National LTL, Inc., now known
as Fedex Freight, Inc. (“Fedex”) and Daniel Adam
Davis were represented by Steven J. Hughes. Gregory called
himself and the defendants called Davis as live witnesses.
They further jointly presented the deposition testimony of
witnesses Dr. Don A. Kovalsky, Dr. Chelsea Crisp and Dr.
Keith D. Wilkey.
brought this case after he was injured in a December 29,
2009, traffic collision in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, with a Fedex
tractor-trailer rig driven by Davis, who was employed by
Fedex at the time. Gregory alleges Davis was negligent (Count
II) and that Fedex is vicariously liable for Davis's
negligence (Count I); the defendants claim Gregory's own
negligence caused his injuries and challenges the extent of
his injuries from the accident.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), the Court makes the
following relevant findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Findings of Fact
Court finds the following facts by a preponderance of the
December 29, 2009, Davis, a Fedex employee was driving a
Fedex tractor-trailer rig in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, in the
course of his employment. The tractor was hauling two
“pup trailers” connected by a dolly. The whole
rig was about 58 to 60 feet in length.
the same time, Gregory was driving a pick-up truck that was
hauling a goose-neck trailer. At all relevant times, Gregory
was wearing a functioning seatbelt with a lap and shoulder
Gregory worked in his family's logging business doing
hard physical labor.
area of the intersection where the collision took place is
reflected on this map, of which the Court takes judicial
notice for the sole purpose of assisting the reader in
understanding the events described in the testimony:
Broadway Street is a four-lane road with a center turn lane
running in the east-west direction.
the extent Gregory's and Davis's descriptions of the
accident differ, those differences are immaterial to the
outcome of this trial except where noted in this order.
around 9:30 a.m. on December 29, 2009, Davis was attempting
to exit the premises of a TA truck stop located on the north
side of Broadway Street. Davis was heading south out of the
truck stop with the intention of turning left onto eastbound
Broadway Street. Davis's point of entry onto Broadway
Street was not controlled by a traffic signal.
Davis's point of entry was about 250 feet west of the
intersection of Broadway Street and the Wells Bypass (also
referred to on the above map as S. 45th St.) (the
“Wells Bypass intersection”), which was
controlled by a traffic signal.
the time Davis was stopped at the exit of the truck stop, he
was not wearing headphones, was wearing glasses, and was
intently looking for an opportunity to exit the truck stop
safely. There was moderate to heavy traffic on Broadway
Street at the time, making it difficult for Davis to identify
an appropriate time, and he waited several minutes for an
opportunity to arise.
While Davis was waiting for traffic to slow so he could
safely exit the truck stop, Gregory was heading northbound on
the Wells Bypass and was the second vehicle stopped at a red
light in the left turn lane at the Wells Bypass intersection.
Davis continued to look left and right in an attempt to
identify a safe time to enter onto Broadway Street, and in
doing so saw Gregory and others waiting in the Wells Bypass
left turn lane.
Davis saw that the traffic light at the Wells Bypass
intersection had turned red for the westbound traffic on
Broadway Street and knew that the left-turning lane from the
Wells Bypass, where Gregory was, would soon have a green left
turn arrow. Davis thought the stopped westbound traffic would
be his best opportunity to exit the truck stop and that he
could clear the intersection before the traffic turning west
from the Wells Bypass reached him, so he moved into the
intersection. Although Davis thought this was his best
opportunity to exit the truck stop, it was not safe.
the meantime, when the traffic light at the Wells Bypass
intersection turned red for the westbound traffic on Broadway
Street, it turned green for the northbound, west-turning
traffic from the Wells Bypass, the line of traffic in which
Gregory was waiting.
Gregory and the vehicle in front of him made the left turn
onto westbound Broadway Street into the right, northernmost
of the two westbound lanes of traffic.
Gregory had not had time to build up excessive speed because
he had started from a stop, was hauling a trailer, and had a
slow-moving vehicle in front of him.
Shortly after making the turn, Gregory switched to the left,
southernmost of the two westbound lanes to avoid the slowing
vehicle in front of him. As Gregory approached Davis's
point of entry onto Broadway Street in the left, southernmost
of the two westbound lanes, Davis had not yet cleared the
westbound lanes, and the first trailer Davis was hauling was
blocking the lane in which Gregory was driving. Gregory
applied his brakes as soon as he saw Davis's rig in an
effort to avoid impact with the trailer.
Gregory collided with the first trailer Davis was hauling
toward the back half of the trailer. The impact smashed the
front of Gregory's truck behind the “landing
gear” of the trailer, the equipment that allows the
trailer to rest on the ground when not attached to a tractor.
Gregory's truck was stuck under the trailer upon impact.
Gregory's testimony that there were multiple impacts
between the trailer and his truck and that Davis continued
driving after the impact was not credible in light of
Gregory's demeanor while testifying, the credible
contrary testimony given by Davis, and the pictures of
Gregory's truck following the accident, which do not
reveal damage that would be expected from the kind of
accident Gregory described.
Davis felt the impact from the collision and stopped the
tractor-trailer as quickly as possible. He remained stopped
until the police arrived.
events that occurred as a consequence of the collision are
disputed. Gregory testified that during the accident, he
slipped under the seatbelt and went to the floor board six or
seven times; was caught in the steering wheel; hit his head
several times on the pole beside the driver's seat, on
the steering wheel and heater core; and ended up with the
gear shift in his mouth. The Court finds this testimony
incredible in light of the fact that Gregory was wearing his
seatbelt at the time and is of substantial size, and the
events Gregory describes appear to be physically impossible
while he was restrained by a seatbelt. Additionally, Gregory
testified he hit his head several times in the accident so he
“really wasn't thinking right” and that he
was under duress from having his truck stuck under
Davis's trailer, which calls into question his memory of
the events. Furthermore, the elaborate sequence of events
could not have occurred in the brief ...