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Larkin v. George

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

October 31, 2016

JOHN LARKIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
KEVIN BOYD GEORGE, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 L 002306 Honorable Ronald F. Bartkowicz Judge Presiding

          SIMON JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Pierce and Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SIMON JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff John Larkin filed an action for negligence against defendant Kevin Boyd George as a result of a multi-car accident. Defendant admitted that he drove negligently, and the remaining issues at trial were the nature and the extent of plaintiff's injuries and whether those injuries were proximately caused by defendant's negligent driving. Following a jury trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of defendant. Plaintiff appeals that verdict arguing that (1) the trial court erred in ruling that defendant did not violate the court's previous order regarding plaintiff's motion in limine, (2) the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (3) the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury to not engage in their own independent investigation.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On January 27, 2011, plaintiff was driving his motor vehicle southbound on Interstate 294 near mile post 39 when he was involved in a multi-car accident. Defendant's vehicle contacted the rear of the vehicle driven by a nonparty. The nonparty then contacted the rear of the vehicle operated by plaintiff. Plaintiff's vehicle then contacted the rear of a vehicle driven by another nonparty.

         ¶ 4 On March 1, 2012, plaintiff filed his complaint against defendant alleging that he suffered numerous injuries as a result of defendant's negligent driving. Prior to trial, plaintiff filed a motion in limine asking the court to bar defendant from presenting testimony and photographs depicting damages sustained by the vehicles involved in the underlying motor vehicle accident. The trial court limited the use of the photographs to show the "point of impact" and not the extent of damages.

         ¶ 5 At trial, investigating trooper John Oreskovich testified that he was on the scene for at least 45 minutes investigating the accident. He stated that his report reflected that plaintiff made no complaints of pain or discomfort at the accident scene. He prepared a no injury code police report indicating that both from his personal observations and from plaintiff's reporting there were no complaints of pain or discomfort at the scene. Defendant testified that, on the day of the accident, plaintiff was in no observable pain or discomfort and that plaintiff made no complaints to him of his left foot or ankle discomfort at the accident scene.

         ¶ 6 Plaintiff testified that he went to an urgent care center the next day after the accident due to a discomfort in his left ankle. Approximately a month later he saw an orthopedic surgeon who performed an ankle surgical procedure. Subsequently, plaintiff underwent a second surgical procedure performed by another surgeon. Plaintiff reported continuing pain and discomfort in his left foot up until the time of trial and testified about his inability to participate in family activities, such as golfing, and playing basketball as a result of the traffic incident. Plaintiff stated that prior to the traffic accident he regularly played basketball on a team.

         ¶ 7 At the close of the evidence, the jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant. Plaintiff filed his motion for a new trial arguing that (1) defendant's counsel repeatedly violated plaintiff's motion in limine when counsel intentionally brought up the pictures in the presence of the jury multiple times, (2) the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (3) the jury clearly engaged in premature deliberation and was biased by extrinsic influences, or, in the alternative, the court should grant plaintiff an evidentiary hearing regarding juror misconduct. The court denied plaintiff's posttrial motion, and this appeal followed.

         ¶ 8 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 9 On a motion for a new trial, the trial court will weigh the evidence and order a new trial if the verdict is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Lawlor v. North American Corp. of Illinois, 2012 IL 112530, ¶ 38. A verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence only where the opposite result is clearly evident or where the jury's findings are unreasonable, arbitrary, and not based upon any of the evidence. Id. We will not reverse the trial court's ruling on a motion for a new trial unless it is affirmatively shown that the trial court abused its discretion. Id.

         ¶ 10 Plaintiff argues that the defendant "blatantly ignored" the court's order regarding the use of photographs at trial and that he was denied his right to a fair trial by defendant's repeated attempts to use this inadmissible evidence at trial. Although the jury did not see the photographs, plaintiff claims that he was prejudiced when the jury was left to speculate and was never able to view or appreciate why the photographs were not disclosed.

         ¶ 11 Once a motion in limine is granted, the movant must be vigilant and object when evidence is presented which may violate the order. Compton v. Ubilluz, 353 Ill.App.3d 863, 871 (2004). The purpose of an order in limine is to exclude inadmissible evidence. Id. A new trial may be granted for a violation of an in limine order only if the order's ...


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