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Enadeghe v. Dahms

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

December 13, 2017

TERRY ENADEGHE, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHARLES DAHMS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 12 L 11436 The Honorable James G. Riley, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE LAVIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Cobbs and Justice Fitzgerald Smith concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          JUSTICE LAVIN

         ¶ 1 Following a civil jury trial, defendant Charles Dahms was found to have acted both negligently and with willful and wanton misconduct against plaintiff Terry Enadeghe when he beat him with his briefcase during a morning encounter on a roadway. The jury awarded damages. Defendant now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in relying on his prior criminal conviction for battery as a basis for liability and in denying his jury instructions and special interrogatories. He also contends the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motions for a mistrial and permitting plaintiff to amend his complaint. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On March 20, 2013, following a criminal jury trial, defendant was found guilty of aggravated battery on a public way (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(c) (West 2012)) for the incident in this case, then sentenced to 18 months' probation. On April 23, 2015, this court affirmed his criminal conviction on appeal. People v. Dahms, 2015 IL App (1st) 133301-U. The Illinois Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for leave to appeal on September 30, 2015, and the United States Supreme Court denied his petition for certiorari on March 7, 2016.[1]

¶ 4 Evidence in the criminal case revealed that in October 2011, Enadeghe was driving his taxicab in downtown Chicago when he stopped at a traffic light in the middle of the crosswalk, unintentionally blocking it. Defendant then approached and smashed his briefcase into the taxi's front windshield, shattering it, then walked away. Enadeghe parked and confronted defendant, asking him to survey the damage to the taxi. At one point, Enadeghe attempted to block him and grabbed the briefcase. Enadeghe then felt a "bang" on his face as defendant took his briefcase once again, using it to hit Enadeghe in the nose, knocking him unconscious to the ground. Enadeghe was hospitalized and received 11 stitches from the bridge of his nose to under his eye, then later had general anesthesia surgery. Defendant was arrested, and Enadeghe identified him from a lineup.

         ¶ 5 Defendant testified to a different version of events in which he "tapped" Enadeghe's windshield in an effort to avoid being hit by the taxi cab, which had improperly entered the intersection. Enadeghe then followed him on foot regarding his taxi. Enadeghe then grabbed defendant by his shirt and repeatedly grabbed the briefcase, which defendant says he ultimately pulled away, accidentally striking Enadeghe in the face. In short, he claimed that he did not intend to strike or injure Enadeghe.

         ¶ 6 Several other witnesses testified in favor of plaintiff, including a CTA bus driver and another pedestrian. The parties also testified about a surveillance video, which was played before the jury, capturing the initial events but not the encounter leading to the injury.

         ¶ 7 In addition to the criminal case, plaintiff filed a civil suit against Dahms. In it, Enadeghe ultimately alleged counts of negligence and willful and wanton misconduct. Prior to trial, Dahms filed a motion in limine to exclude his criminal conviction, while Enadeghe filed a motion to allow the conviction. Dahms argued his criminal conviction was not final because he had filed a writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court that had not yet been ruled upon. The jury trial began. After Dahms had testified as an adverse witness, but before Enadeghe presented his case in chief, the trial court denied defendant's motion in limine, noting that the criminal conviction arose out of the same facts and circumstances as the civil case. The court ruled that the criminal battery conviction could be used as prima facie evidence of willful and wanton misconduct, since the intent underlying both was the same, and ruled that the conviction's probative value outweighed any prejudicial effect.

         ¶ 8 Trial then continued with much of the testimony mirroring the previous criminal case, [2]with defendant testifying as an adverse witness for the plaintiff. There was also testimony as to damages incurred. For example, Enadeghe underwent three reconstructive surgeries on his nose, and still required additional surgery to correct a scar. After testimony, Enadeghe rested his case. Dahms also rested without presenting any evidence and rested on his counterclaim alleging negligence and battery on the part of Enadeghe. The parties and the court returned to the issue of introducing the criminal conviction to the jury.

         ¶ 9 The parties provided extensive argument on the propriety of using the conviction, and the trial court reviewed the Illinois Supreme Court case American Family Mutual Insurance Co. v. Savickas, 193 Ill.2d 378 (2000), discussing collateral estoppel based on a criminal conviction. Ultimately, the court ruled that given Dahms's criminal conviction, there was no trial issue remaining as to Dahms's liability for negligence and willful and wanton misconduct. The court also ruled that Dahms was estopped from presenting instructions on his affirmative defenses and struck his countercomplaint. As such, the only issue before the jury concerned causation and damages, and Dahms's criminal conviction was not introduced to the jury. The jury found Dahms liable for some $130, 000 for medical expenses, disability, pain and suffering, and disfigurement resulting from the injury to Enadeghe.

         ¶ 10 Dahms filed a posttrial motion, which was denied, and ...


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