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Smith v. Hancock

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

July 31, 2019

AMBROSIA SMITH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
KAITLIN HANCOCK and PAUL ROBERSON, Defendants, Paul Roberson, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macoupin County No. 17L9 Honorable April Troemper, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Ellen R. Burford, of Granite City, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Austin T. Moore, of Hennessy & Roach, P.C., of Springfield, for appellee.

          JUSTICE TURNER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Holder White and Justice Cavanagh concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 In April 2017, plaintiff, Ambrosia Smith, filed a two-count complaint against defendants, Kaitlin Hancock and Paul Roberson, seeking damages for injuries plaintiff suffered in a September 2016 car accident. In September 2018, Roberson filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Macoupin County circuit court granted summary judgment in Roberson's favor, finding Roberson was not the legal cause of plaintiffs injuries.

         ¶ 2 Plaintiff appeals, asserting the circuit court erred by granting summary judgment in Roberson's favor. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 On September 29, 2016, plaintiff was traveling northbound on Old Route 66 in Macoupin County when she was either stopped or substantially slowed to make a left turn onto a cross road. Plaintiff had stopped or slowed to permit Roberson's southbound vehicle to pass. While stopped or slowed, plaintiffs vehicle was struck from behind by another northbound vehicle driven by Hancock. Due to the impact from Hancock's vehicle, plaintiffs vehicle was propelled into the southbound lane of traffic where it was struck by Roberson's vehicle.

         ¶ 5 In her April 2017 complaint, plaintiff alleged one count of negligence against Hancock and one count of negligence against Roberson. Regarding Roberson, plaintiff alleged Roberson had a duty to plaintiff to operate and maintain the vehicle under his control with due regard for plaintiffs safety. She contended Roberson violated that duty by committing one or more of the following acts, some of which in violation of Illinois law: (1) failing to keep a proper lookout; (2) driving his vehicle in a reckless manner (625 ILCS 5/11-503 (West 2016)); (3) driving his vehicle at a speed that (a) was greater than what was reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway or (b) endangered the safety of any person or property (625 ILCS 5/11-601(a) (West 2016)); (4) failing to sound an audible horn warning (625 ILCS 5/12-601 (West 2016)); and (5) failing to reduce speed to avoid colliding with other vehicles (625 ILCS 5/11-601(a) (West 2016)). Plaintiff further asserted that, as a direct and proximate result of one or more of Roberson's aforementioned actions, she sustained severe and permanent injuries when her vehicle was struck by Roberson's vehicle.

         ¶ 6 Roberson filed a motion for summary judgment in September 2018, asserting no genuine issue of material fact existed on the element of proximate cause and he was entitled to judgment in his favor. In support of his motion, Roberson attached the discovery depositions of himself, plaintiff, and Hancock. He also noted the parties stipulated the video of the accident taken by Jeff Bone's security camera accurately depicted the accident.

         ¶ 7 In her deposition, plaintiff testified she was going to make a left turn and saw Roberson's car coming from the other direction. Plaintiff turned on her turn signal and stopped her vehicle to allow Roberson's car to pass before she made her left turn. She did not remember getting hit by either Hancock's or Roberson's vehicles. The next thing she did remember was not being able to lift her head up off the seat and talking with Bone. Plaintiff did not know if Bone's videotape accurately depicted the car accident because she did not recollect the accident.

         ¶ 8 In his deposition, Roberson testified he was 70 years old. On the day of the accident, he was driving south from Litchfield and heading back to Staunton where he lived. His wife was in the front passenger's seat. It had previously rained that afternoon.

         ¶ 9 While driving home, Roberson observed plaintiff heading northbound. Plaintiff had slowed to almost a stop and had her left turn signal on. Roberson stated he was about a football field or less away when he first observed plaintiff. Roberson was driving between 45 and 50 miles per hour at the time. The posted speed limit was 55 miles per hour. Roberson continued down the road and observed a plume of water, dirt, and dust come up behind plaintiffs car. Roberson assumed someone had hit plaintiffs car. At that point, he started braking. He testified 2½ seconds elapsed between the time he saw the first car hit plaintiffs car and when he hit plaintiffs car. He was positive about the amount of time because he had timed Bone's video 25 times. Roberson stated that, when plaintiffs car was struck by the first car, it spun around 180 degrees and came into his lane. He hit the rear end of plaintiff s car. Roberson noted he only had a second between the time plaintiffs car entered his lane and when his car hit plaintiffs car. When plaintiffs car entered his lane, Roberson locked up his brakes, swung his hand in front of his wife, and braced for impact. He did ...

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