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Stanford v. City of Flora

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

April 18, 2018

ROGER DALE STANFORD, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE CITY OF FLORA and FLORA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, Defendants (Flora Chamber of Commerce, Defendant-Appellee).

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clay County. No. 11-L-6 Honorable Wm. Robin Todd, Judge, presiding.

          Attorney for Appellant Linda J. Cantrell, Winters, Brewster, Crosby and Schafer

          Attorneys for Appellee Douglas A. Enloe, Eric A. St Ledger, Gosnell, Borden, Enloe, Sloss & McCullough,

          JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Cates concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          GOLDENHERSH JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff, Roger Dale Stanford, appeals from the Clay County circuit court's order granting a motion for setoff in favor of defendant, the Flora Chamber of Commerce (Chamber). Pursuant to the collateral source rule recognized by Illinois courts, we find the trial court erred in granting the motion for setoff. We further find that the jury verdict concerning plaintiff's medical expenses, disability, and lost earnings was against the manifest weight of the evidence. This cause is reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Plaintiff, Roger Stanford, was injured on October 30, 2010, after a vehicle operated by Curt Jordan collided with the rear of plaintiff's antique tractor, which plaintiff was standing beside. At the time, plaintiff was a participant in the annual Halloween parade organized in Flora, Illinois, and plaintiff's tractor was the last vehicle in the parade. On November 10, 2010, Jordan's insurance company, Geico Indemnity Company (Geico), tendered $20, 000 to plaintiff pursuant to a release and settlement agreement signed by plaintiff. On July 18, 2011, plaintiff's insurance company, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm), tendered $280, 000 to plaintiff pursuant to plaintiff's underinsured motorist policy.

         ¶ 4 Plaintiff and his wife, Joan Stanford, subsequently filed an amended complaint against defendants, the City of Flora (City) and the Chamber, on January 5, 2012, alleging negligence, willful and wanton conduct, and loss of consortium. Regarding the alleged negligence, plaintiff asserted that as a direct and proximate result, in whole or in part, of one or more of defendants' careless and negligent acts or omissions to act:

"Plaintiff was greatly injured in and about his body and extremities, both internally and externally, and has and will in the future endure great pain and suffering, has and will in the future expend large sums of money in endeavoring to become cured of said injuries, has been temporarily and permanently injured as a result of said injuries and has lost wages."

         ¶ 5 Regarding the alleged willful and wanton conduct, plaintiff asserted defendants' failures to act and/or omissions to act were an utter indifference and/or conscious disregard for the safety of others, which caused plaintiff to sustain severe personal injuries and damages. Joan Stanford alleged loss of consortium against defendants.

         ¶ 6 The City and the Chamber subsequently denied the allegations and filed affirmative defenses. Relevant to this appeal, the Chamber's third and fourth affirmative defenses asserted that in the event plaintiff recovers a judgment against the Chamber, the Chamber is entitled to a setoff in the amount of $311, 000 against any such judgment since plaintiff had already received $20, 000 from Geico, $280, 000 from State Farm under plaintiff's underinsured motorist policy, $10, 000 from State Farm for medical payments, and upon information and belief that plaintiff had received $1000 from a victim's advocacy fund. Specifically, the Chamber asserted the sum of $311, 000 that plaintiff received "is in full satisfaction of any and all claim that [plaintiff has] against [the Chamber], and would act as a setoff and bar of any judgment claimed that plaintiff has against this defendant."

         ¶ 7 On August 31, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion to strike the Chamber's affirmative defenses. Regarding the Chamber's third and fourth affirmative defenses, plaintiff argued the Chamber's allegation of a setoff entitlement is an inaccurate statement of the law. Citing our supreme court's decision in Arthur v. Catour, 216 Ill.2d 72 (2005), plaintiff noted that, pursuant to the collateral source rule, benefits received by the injured party from a source wholly independent of and collateral to the tortfeasor will not diminish damages otherwise recoverable from the tortfeasor. Plaintiff also filed a motion in limine on August 31, 2015, requesting that the court prohibit defendants and their attorneys or witnesses from testifying or making any statements regarding any payments received by plaintiff from State Farm.

         ¶ 8 Oral arguments on plaintiff's motions were held on September 2, 2015. On October 20, 2015, the trial court denied plaintiff's motion to strike the Chamber's third and fourth affirmative defenses regarding a setoff entitlement but granted plaintiff's motion in limine prohibiting defendants from testifying or making statements regarding any payments received by plaintiff from State Farm. On October 23, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration that asserted that "[t]o allow a setoff for underinsured or uninsured motorist insurance would directly circumvent the collateral source rule."

         ¶ 9 A jury trial commenced on November 2, 2015. On November 5, 2015, the trial court granted the City's motion for a directed verdict and dismissed it from this case. After the jury trial concluded on November 6, 2015, the jury tendered a verdict in favor of plaintiff and against the Chamber, finding plaintiff suffered $50, 000 in damages ($25, 000 for pain and suffering and $25, 000 for earnings lost). The jury further found plaintiff was 10% contributorily negligent, thereby reducing the verdict to a total of $45, 000. The jury awarded zero damages for medical expenses, disability, and remodeling expenses.

         ¶ 10 After the jury verdict, the Chamber made an oral motion based on its previously filed affirmative defense regarding a setoff entitlement. On November 16, 2015, the Chamber filed a motion for setoff to be applied to the jury verdict, requesting that the court allow a setoff in its favor for the sum of $20, 000 paid by Jordan's insurer, Geico, to plaintiff and also the sum of $280, 000 paid by State Farm to plaintiff under plaintiff's underinsured motorist coverage. The Chamber's motion for setoff asserted "plaintiff has previously received satisfaction in full for his claimed damages in bar of action."

         ¶ 11 The court granted the Chamber's motion for setoff to be applied to the jury verdict on December 7, 2015, for both the sum of $20, 000 paid by Geico and the sum of $280, 000 paid by State Farm. Specifically, the court stated:

"[T]he Judgment entered on the verdict of the jury is satisfied in full and [the Chamber] shall not be required to pay any sum of money to Plaintiff as a result of the November 6, 2015 jury verdict in favor of the Plaintiff due to the fact that the jury verdict was less than the amount of setoff to which [the Chamber] is entitled."

         ¶ 12 On January 8, 2016, plaintiff filed a posttrial motion requesting that the verdict concerning damages be vacated and a new trial be granted. Plaintiff further requested that the order allowing a setoff against the jury verdict for underinsured benefits received by plaintiff be reversed because it directly circumvented the collateral source rule. The Chamber filed a response to plaintiff's posttrial motion requesting that it be denied. The Chamber argued the collateral source rule was not applicable to the facts of this case and that refusing to allow the Chamber a setoff against the jury verdict would guarantee a ...


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