In April 2010, the plaintiffs Rose Schurer and Andrea DeVivo were driving westbound on Lawrence Avenue in Norridge, Ill., when an oncoming van crossed the center line and struck their vehicle. The eastbound van was driven by the defendant, 56-year-old Pawel Pawlowska.
The plaintiff, Schurer, suffered four fractures in her right leg and ankle, which required surgery. The second plaintiff, 42-year-old DeVivo, sustained a fractured pelvis requiring surgery. She later developed arthritis resulting in a total left hip replacement.
The plaintiffs Schurer and DeVivo maintained that Pawlowska was acting as a volunteer agent of the Catholic Bishop of Chicago (Archdiocese of Chicago) at the time of the crash because he was driving to a church to perform non-profit electrical work with installation of materials he recently purchased using the church’s tax-exempt status.
The defense for Pawlowska was denial of negligence. In defense of the Catholic Bishop of Chicago it was argued that Pawlowska was an independent contractor and not an agent of the church at the time of the crash.
The plaintiffs’ counsel, Glennon F. Curran and Marc D. Alberts, noted that the Catholic bishop’s motion for summary judgment and directed verdict on the issue of agency were both denied by the court.
Pawlowska’s $20,000 insurance policy limit offered to the plaintiffs was declined due to the agency issue with the Catholic bishop. Before trial, the Catholic bishop offered $25,000 to each of the two plaintiffs.
Before trial, the plaintiffs collectively made a demand to settle the case for $500,000. The total offer was $40,000 by Pawlowska and $50,000 offered by the Catholic bishop of Chicago.
In closing argument, the plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to return a verdict of $1,313,263. The jury’s verdict of $713,263 was against Pawlowska only. In fact, a special interrogatory was submitted to the jury that stated: “Do you find that the defendant Pawel Pawlowska was the agent of the Catholic Bishop of Chicago at the time of Chicago?” Answer: “No”. Because of the way the jury answered the special interrogatory, the verdict for both plaintiffs was against Pawlowska only and not as to the Catholic Bishop of Chicago.
The jury’s verdict of $713,263 was made up of the following damages.
$233,085 to Rose Schurer, which included:
• $123,085 for past medical expenses;
• $60,000 for past and future pain and suffering;
• $40,000 for past and future loss of normal life; and
• $10,000 for disfigurement.
$480,178 was the jury’s verdict in favor of Andrea DeVivo against Pawel Pawlowska, which included:
• $217,678 for past medical expenses;
• $57,500 for future medical expenses;
• $125,000 for past and future pain and suffering;
• $60,000 for past and future loss of normal life; and
• $20,000 for disfigurement.
This was an interesting case because of the agency issue with the Catholic Bishop of Chicago. Although the court had denied motions for summary judgment on the issue of agency, the jury’s verdict and its answer to its special interrogatory was that there was no agency relationship. The only remaining issue not covered in the report of this case was whether a bad faith claim would be viable against the insurer of Pawel Pawlowska. In addition, it is curious as to whether an appeal would be taken on the issue of agency with the Catholic Bishop.
Rose Schurer, Andrea DeVivo v. Pawel Pawlowska, Catholic Bishop of Chicago, No. 10 L 11520 (Cook County, Ill.).
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury cases, automobile accident cases and truck accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Cicero, Stickney, Brookfield, Summit, LaGrange, Western Springs, Oakbrook, Yorkfield, Wood Dale, Norridge, Burr Ridge, Palos Heights, Palos Park, Orland Park, Crete, Beecher, Glencoe, Deerfield, Buffalo Grove and Wheeling, Ill.
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