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Case Notes : June 2017

CASE NOTES

Summaries of recent legal matters in and around Chicago

INTOXICATED BICYCLIST CRASHES AND RECOVERS FROM THE CITY

Amanda Loftus v. City of Chicago

Cook County Case No. 14 L 9955

One Sunday afternoon, the 23-year-old female Plaintiff spent five hours drinking at multiple bars where she admittedly consumed at least 5-6 beers. Thereafter riding her bike in a city street bike lane, she hit a pothole and fell onto her face. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment of injuries including a broken nose and facial lacerations. At the hospital, two hours after the accident, her blood alcohol level was .209.

Her injuries required multiple stitches and plastic surgery, leaving her with some scarring and a partially deviated septum, as well as medical expenses of $9,264 and anticipated expenses of $28,500 for future plastic surgeries.

Plaintiff sued the City, claiming the proximate cause of her injuries was the pothole that had been in the bike lane for at least three years despite multiple complaints to the City.

Conflicting evidence at trial made it unclear whether the pothole had been fixed multiple times over the prior three years or not.

The City claimed Plaintiff was at fault for riding her bicycle while intoxicated, based on hospital records that showed her blood alcohol level and noted her intoxication, and defense expert testimony that her blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was at least .239. The City also pointed to evidence indicating Plaintiff told paramedics that she fell off her bicycle because she hit a car mirror. The City also contended that any residual facial scarring was unnoticeable and could easily be covered with makeup.

Plaintiff claimed the hospital's blood alcohol test was faulty and that that the fact that she had negotiated multiple busy streets on her bike before her accident showed she was not intoxicated, along with neurological testing by paramedics and hospital personnel showing no verbal or motor deficits.

At trial, it seems the jury believed everyone somewhat, delivering the bar-hopping biker a verdict of $185,000, but reducing it by 35%, down to $120,000, for contributory negligence.

REAR ENDED PLAINTIFF PREVENTED FROM TESTIFYNG AS TO DEFENDANT DRIVER'S INTOXICATION

Anas Jabiri v. Estate of Michael T. Grunde, deceased

Cook County Case No. 15 L 2516

The 42-year-old male Plaintiff was driving in a heavy snowstorm, at 20 miles below the speed limit due to the weather conditions. The allegedly intoxicated 25-year-old male Defendant rear-ended Plaintiff.

As a result of the accident, Plaintiff suffered two herniated cervical discs, a torn rotator cuff, and aggravation of another pre-existing disc herniation. Medical costs were $79,810.

Prior to trial, Defendant died from unrelated causes. This created an issue for Plaintiff because Illinois's Deadman's Act was found to preclude Plaintiff from testifying that Defendant was intoxicated and had tried to flee the scene after the accident. Plaintiff was still able submit circumstantial evidence that he was rear-ended and that Defendant was negligent. The Defense argued Plaintiff did not have enough admissible evidence to show negligence, and contested the nature and necessity of treatment of Plaintiff's injuries. The jury returned a verdict for $100,000, awarding only $54,000 for medical expenses and $46,000 for past and future pain & suffering.

DRUNK DRIVER REAR-ENDS TRUCKER BUT AVOIDS PUNITIVE DAMAGE LIABILITY

Chris Peterman v. Bayanmunkh Sodnom

Cook County Case No. 14 L 13073

The 32-year-old male Plaintiff was driving his truck when he was rear-ended by Defendant whose vehicle then rebounded and hit another car. Defendant pled guilty to DUI related to the accident.

Plaintiff suffered a soft tissue lumbar strain with a bulging disc. After two weeks of treatment, he returned to work full-time without pain complaints. After five months, he sought and received chiropractic care and pain management lumbar injections, as well as physical therapy. He returned for further pain management treatments, two-years later.

Plaintiff incurred approximately $32,000 in medical costs and claimed approximately $12,000 for nine weeks of lost wages.

Defendant was in a coma for three months following the accident, and had claimed no memory of the events before or after the accident.

At trial, Plaintiff sought recovery of his medical costs and lost earnings, plus $244,000 for pain & suffering and loss of normal life, as well as $500,000 in punitive damages.

At trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff no punitive damages and, after medical costs and lost earnings, awarded only $33,000 for pain & suffering and $67,000 loss of normal life.

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