Illinois Appellate Court Orders Lower Court to Enter Verdict for Plaintiff in Rear-End Crash

In Claro v. DeLong, the plaintiff was driving a Honda Accord and was waiting at a red light when the defendant, who was operating a Dodge Durango, rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle. At trial, the plaintiff offered testimony regarding his lifetime career as an auto body repairman. After starting at his father’s shop, he worked at several other businesses. At the time the trial took place, he was working at an auto body shop, where he was performing heavy repair work. He testified that he could possibly have an opportunity to purchase the business from its current owners.

The defendant testified that she was stopped behind the plaintiff when she felt the brake pedal compress and her vehicle roll forward into the plaintiff’s vehicle. She testified that it felt like there was air in the brake line. Based on her recollection, the impact was very minimal. She recalled exchanging words with the plaintiff, calling the police, and everyone leaving the accident in seemingly good condition.

The plaintiff disagreed and instead testified that the plaintiff was traveling between 15 and 20 miles per hour when her vehicle rear-ended his vehicle. He also testified that after the accident, he experienced pain and discomfort in his shoulder. He eventually saw a chiropractor, who provided limited relief. Eventually, he saw an orthopedic surgeon, who administered steroid injections. He testified that the pain affected his ability to perform strenuous activities, particularly when he was at work. Both care providers provided testimony at trial. The orthopedic surgeon stated that the steroid injections may not continue to work, in which case he would require a disc replacement surgery.

After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant and did not award any damages to the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to enter a judgment in his favor, which the court denied. The plaintiff appealed, claiming that the defendant admitted liability and that the jury’s verdict was therefore against the manifest weight of the evidence.

In reviewing the evidence, the appellate court noted that ample evidence in the record established that the plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the accident. Both medical professionals who treated the plaintiff indicated that he suffered serious injuries, including a herniated disc at C5-6, which they linked to the accident. The record also showed that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the jury’s verdict and remanded the case with instructions to enter a judgment in favor of the plaintiff and for the trial court to hold a new trial to determine the amount of damages to which the plaintiff was entitled.

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