Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Defense Verdict in Multi-Car Highway Collision

In Larkin v. George, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered injuries while traveling southbound on I-294 as a result of a multi-car accident. According to his complaint, the defendant’s car struck the rear of a vehicle operated by a person not named as a party in the lawsuit. This caused the non-party’s vehicle to strike the rear of the vehicle in which the plaintiff was driving. This also caused the plaintiff’s vehicle to strike the rear of another vehicle. The complaint asserted multiple causes of action against the defendant, including a claim for negligence.

Before trial, the plaintiff filed a motion in limine, which is a motion asking the court to make a ruling about which evidence can or cannot be used at trial. The plaintiff asked the court to bar evidence from the defendant and photographs showing the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident. The court granted the motion, limiting the defendant’s testimony and use of photographs to showing the “point of impact,” rather than the extent of the damages that occurred.

During trial, the trooper who responded to the accident testified that he was on-scene for 45 minutes following the collision and that the plaintiff did not make any statements indicating that he had suffered physical injuries. The defendant also testified that the plaintiff did not appear to be in any pain. In contrast, the plaintiff testified that he went to an urgent care facility on the day after the accident because he experienced pain in his left ankle. One month later, he saw an orthopedic surgeon, who performed a surgical procedure on his ankle. He also underwent a second procedure by another surgeon sometime later and reported persistent pain and discomfort in his left foot until the time of trial.

The jury returned a verdict for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed on three grounds:  that the defendant violated the motion in limine, that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, and that the jury engaged in premature deliberation and was biased by extrinsic influences.

The Illinois First Division Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial and rejected each of the plaintiff’s grounds for appeal. The plaintiff failed to explain how the defendant violated the motion in limine, and the appellate court noted that the trial court’s order did not prohibit the defense from any and all use of the photographs. The appellate court also felt that the jury’s verdict was based on sufficient evidence. A court can reverse a verdict when the jury’s findings are unreasonable, arbitrary, and not based on the evidence in the record. Finally, the court rejected the assertion that the jury weighed improper evidence not presented at trial. During the proceeding, the defendant was facing multiple pending charges in Indiana that were reported in numerous media outlets. The trial court properly instructed the jury to ignore this extraneous evidence and sufficiently questioned each juror prior to the start of the trial regarding whether they had any familiarity with the plaintiff.

Car accidents can be a devastating, painful, and life-altering experience for a victim. At Therman Law Offices, we proudly serve accident victims throughout Illinois, providing them with the diligent, forceful, and experienced legal counsel that they deserve. Based in Chicago, our car accident attorneys offer a free legal consultation to help you learn about your rights and how we can assist you with seeking compensation. Call us now at 312-588-1900 or contact us online.

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