Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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In 2010, plaintiff (age 15) was playing floor hockey with 11 other students in his physical education class when a “squishy” ball bounced off his stick and hit him in the eye, causing permanent injury to his eye. Plaintiff alleged that Cunningham, the instructor, was willful and wanton in failing to require the students to wear protective eyewear. Goggles were available, but plaintiff testified that he probably would not have worn them, had he been aware that they were an option. Cunningham testified that she thought the use of plastic sticks and squishy balls negated the need for goggles and that there were safety rules in place. Defendants asserted affirmative defenses alleging statutory immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/2-201, 3-108. The trial court directed a verdict for defendants. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the directed verdict. There was no evidence that defendants were aware of facts which would have put a reasonable person on notice of the risk of serious harm from the activity, which would have triggered the “willful and wanton” exception to the Act. View "Barr v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed by the railroad, as a switchman and conductor. On August 9, 2008, plaintiff was riding in a railroad van, going from a railway yard to a train, driven by the railroad’s agent, Goodwin. The van was rear-ended by Behnken's vehicle. Plaintiff suffered a severe back injury and can no longer perform his job duties. He is employed by the railroad as a security guard at significantly reduced wages. Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51, alleging that Goodwin had negligently cut in front of Behnken and that Goodwin’s negligence caused the accident. Behnken testified that she was drunk at the time of the collision, that she was arrested for driving under the influence, and that she was found to be legally intoxicated two hours later when she took a breath test. Behnken stated that she did not see the van before she hit it and that she either “fell asleep or was blacked out” and did not know if she had her headlights on. The jury ruled in favor of the railroad. The appellate court reversed, holding that the FELA does not allow a defendant railroad to argue that a third-party’s negligent conduct was the sole cause of the employee’s injuries. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Under FELA, the employee cannot recover unless the railroad was a cause, at least in part, of the plaintiff’s injuries. In this case, after considering all the evidence, the jury agreed that it was not. There is no basis for disturbing that determination. View "Wardwell v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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Chase owned the mortgage on plaintiff’s Northbrook home and had the right, in the event of a default, to enter onto the property to make repairs. Plaintiff defaulted in 2007. Chase obtained a judgment of foreclosure. Plaintiff had the right to possession until the redemption period expired on August 25, 2010. On June 17, 2010, Chase’s contractor for inspections and preservation services received a report that plaintiff’s property was vacant and placed an “initial secure” order. Its subcontractors, Gonsalez and Centeno, inspected, knocked on the door, and spoke with a neighbor who stated that the house was not occupied. Gonsalez entered the home and was confronted by plaintiff. Gonsalez left. Gonsalez and Centeno waited and plaintiff stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until the police arrived. No arrests were made. Gonsalez offered to replace the lock, but plaintiff declined. Plaintiff testified that she became afraid while in her home and fearful of attack. On the day of the incident, plaintiff went to the hospital. Subsequently, she sought treatment, therapy, and medication for issues with sleeping, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. Her employment was terminated. She sued. The court rejected claims of private nuisance, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Claims of trespass and negligent trespass are still pending. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Plaintiff did not allege a physical impact, as a direct victim, as required for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress. There is no question of fact as to whether the conduct of Gonsalez and Centeno could be deemed extreme and outrageous, so summary judgment on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim was proper. View "Schweihs v. Chase Home Finance, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Plaintiff lived in a Klein Creek condominium in Carol Stream. After a 20-inch February 2011 snowstorm, the association's landscaping service cleared the complex’s sidewalks. Eleven days later, plaintiff left her unit and fell on a sidewalk, breaking her leg, knee, and hip. She filed suit, claiming that she fell on an unnatural accumulation of ice. She alleged negligence in failing to properly direct the drainage of water and melted snow, failing to repair defective sidewalks, and failing to repair downspouts to prevent an unnatural accumulation of ice on the sidewalk, and noncompliance with construction and maintenance codes. The condominium association's president stated that he was aware of water collecting on and around sidewalks in other areas of the complex, especially during heavy rainstorms, but was not aware of water pooling in the area behind the building where plaintiff fell. The property managers stated that they were unaware of drainage issues at the back of the buildings. The court found the claim barred by the immunity provided to residential owners and operators under the Snow and Ice Removal Act. 745 ILCS 75/0.01. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that the immunity did not apply because there were no allegations of negligence relating to snow or ice removal efforts. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The Act provides immunity from claims for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks resulting from negligent snow and ice removal efforts, but it does not extend to claims for injuries allegedly caused by icy sidewalks that result from an otherwise negligent failure to maintain the premises. View "Murphy-Hylton v. Lieberman Management Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2006, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) invited contractors to bid on the purchase and removal of three abandoned railroad bridges that spanned Chicago streets. Happ’s, a scrap contractor, had worked railroads for 25 years recycling steel and railroad ties. Carney (dba Chicago Explosive) had a 20-year business relationship with Happ; the two entered “a handshake agreement” concerning the bid. UP accepted Happ’s bid, unaware of the agreement between Happ’s and Carney. Removal of the first bridge proceeded without incident. During the demolition of the larger Polk Street Bridge, a crossbeam snapped. The west girder, which was not secured or supported, fell. Plaintiff, standing north of the bridge on a gravel-covered steel plate, slid forward under the falling girder. Plaintiff’s legs were severed below his knees. Plaintiff sued UP, alleging negligence in failing to discover and disclose to Happ’s or plaintiff the presence of the steel plate and in hiring Happ’s. The trial court granted UP summary judgment. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated summary judgment. UP owed plaintiff no duty. There was nothing in the contract indicating that UP retained control such that Happ’s was not entirely free to do the work in its own way, nor was UP’s conduct inconsistent with the agreement. Plaintiff was an employee of Carney, not a “bystander.” UP did not build the bridge, did not possess the plans for the bridge, did not use the bridge, and had no reason to know that the steel floor plate extended several feet into the roadbed, precluding plaintiff’s premises liability claim. View "Carney v. Union Pacific R.R. Co." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, driving to a doctor’s office, attempted to turn left across three lanes of oncoming traffic. The two closest oncoming lanes stopped, but in the curbside lane she collided with a private ambulance, making a nonemergency transfer of a patient from a hospital to a nursing home, without flashing lights or siren. Plaintiff suffered a brain injury and has no memory of the collision. In plaintiff’s negligence suit, defense claimed immunity under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act, 210 ILCS 50/3.150(a), which provides that any person licensed under it “who in good faith provides emergency or non-emergency medical services … in the normal course of their duties … shall not be civilly liable as a result of their acts or omissions in providing such services unless such acts or omissions … constitute willful and wanton misconduct.” The trial court granted summary judgment for the defense. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the defense judgment. The Act does not limit immunity to patients in the ambulance. The legislature granted broad immunity out of concern that fear of liability would deter people from becoming emergency workers or deter emergency workers from performing their duties.View "Wilkins v. Williams" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Russell, the sole occupant and pilot of an Agusta 109C helicopter, died after his helicopter crashed in Illinois. Russell, a resident of Georgia, was living in Illinois and working for an Illinois air ambulance service operating in the Chicago area. The helicopter was manufactured in Italy in 1989. The trial court dismissed claims against SNFA, a French company that manufactured a custom tail-rotor bearing for the helicopter, for lack of jurisdiction. The appellate court reversed and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that Agusta and its American subsidiary, AAC, effectively operated as an American distributor for the tail-rotor bearings in the U.S. market and that SNFA custom manufactured the bearings at issue specifically for Agusta. By engaging a business entity located in Illinois, SNFA undoubtedly benefitted from Illinois’ system of laws, infrastructure, and business climate and has the requisite minimum contacts with Illinois for purposes of specific personal jurisdiction. The exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable; Illinois has an indisputable interest in resolving litigation stemming from a fatal Illinois helicopter accident.View "Russell v. SNFA" on Justia Law