Articles Posted in Jury Instructions

Carus Corp. (Carus) was an international company that developed and sold chemical products for municipal and industrial applications. In a federal lawsuit, Carus was named as a defendant. Carus’s products included a chemical called Totalox, which essentially was designed as a deodorizer for sewer systems.

The town of Lexington (town) used Totalox in its sewer treatment plants. In 2010, John Machin, a town employee, was exposed to Totalox when a storage container valve broke during the delivery of Totalox to one of the town’s wastewater stations. He suffered reactive airways syndrome, which was also known as chemically induced asthma or obstructive lung disease.

As a result of his injuries, he filed a workers’ compensation claim and was allowed workers’ compensation benefits. The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted four certified questions from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina: (1) Under South Carolina law, when a plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the jury hear an explanation of why the employer is not part of the instant action?; (2) when a plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may a defendant argue the empty chair defense and suggest that plaintiff’s employer is the wrongdoer?; (3) In connection with Question 2, if a defendant retains the right to argue the “empty chair” defense against a plaintiff’s employer, may a court instruct the jury that an employer’s legal responsibility has been determined by another forum, specifically, the state’s workers’ compensation commission?; and (4) when a plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the court allow the jury to apportion fault against the nonparty employer by placing the name of the employer on the verdict form?

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Dean Wilcox fell 50 feet through an open catwalk hatch onto a concrete floor. Having sustained severe injuries, he sued the on-site safety planner, Steven Basehore, for negligent planning causing the fall; Wilcox also named the safety planner’s employer, Bartlett Services Inc., and an intermediary company, ELR Consulting Inc. (ELR), in respondeat superior. ELR was one of the many contractors involved in the cleanup project.

The work being done at the  site was to dismantle a nuclear weaponry facility that measured more than 586 square miles.

Before trial, the court granted ELR judgment as a matter of law. At trial, the court instructed the jury on the borrowed servant doctrine, an extension of respondeat superior. Wilcox appealed both decisions. The Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed.

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On Jan. 27, 2011, there was a multi-car crash on Interstate 294 in the Chicago suburbs. Kevin Boyd George drove his car into the rear of another car and that car was in turn pushed into a car driven by the plaintiff, John Larkin.

Larkin’s car was pushed into the car in front of him. He filed a lawsuit on March 1, 2012 claiming that he suffered “numerous injuries” due to the negligent driving by the defendant, Kevin Boyd George.

At the scene of the crash, Larkin did not report any injury, but on the following day he did go to an urgent care center reporting pain in his left ankle. Larkin ultimately had to undergo two orthopedic procedures to correct the pain and reported continuing pain, which prevented him from participating in family and recreational activities that included golf and basketball, which he claimed to have participated in regularly.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed a defense verdict in a multi-vehicle crash on an icy Indiana highway that caused severe injuries to motorists. The big issue in the case was which state’s law should be applied at a Cook County Circuit Court jury trial.

On Dec. 26, 2007, Clifford Ruse, a truck driver for Harvey, Ill.-based Envirite of Illinois Inc. was driving eastbound on Interstate 80/94 in Hammond, Ind., when he was struck by an SUV whose driver had lost control on a patch of black ice.

Ruse swerved his truck to the left and hit the highway’s median wall. On impact, the container of mill dust in tow was detached from his truck and that container crossed into the westbound lanes of the interstate highway. The plaintiff in the case, Daniel Kovera, was one of several drivers injured when the container landed on their cars. In March 2008, Kovera and his wife filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill.

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In a car crash case in which the plaintiff claimed injury, the jury found for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. The appellate court found that the plaintiff had not preserved the appealed issues and affirmed the decision of the jury and the trial court in favor of the defendant.

On appeal from a verdict for the defendant, the plaintiff, Warren G. Hamilton, asked the Illinois Appellate Court to grant his request for judgment as a matter of law on the liability and to return the case the trial judge on the issue of damages.

Hamilton thought he preserved the issue for appeal by (1) asking for a directed verdict or in the jury instructions conference; and (2) filing an opposed trial motion under §2-1202(a) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure that argued, among other things, the “defendant was negligent as a matter of law” and “the court erred in failing to direct a verdict for the plaintiff at the close of evidence.” In the same motion, Hamilton argued that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and closed by asking for a new trial, not judgment notwithstanding the verdict on liability.

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On June 23, 2009, Ramon Ortiz was driving northbound on Sacramento Boulevard and stopped at a red light at the intersection of Chicago Avenue in Chicago, Ill. When the light turned green, he started into the intersection and his car was hit by the defendant’s car. Richard Sakre was driving his car westbound. Ortiz alleged in his lawsuit that Sakre ran the red light, which caused the collision.

Ortiz was 44 and suffered three cervical disc herniation/protrusions at C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7. He also sustained a torn left rotator cuff, which was caused or aggravated by this crash. He was treated with steroid injections and physical therapy and then became symptom-free six months after the accident.

Ortiz’s medical bills totaled $55,348. He missed a week of work as a commercial roofing driver.

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Patricia DeBoo, 61, was shopping at Menard’s when she was struck in the head by a bathroom vanity that was inadvertently pushed off a high shelf by a Menard’s employee. The worker was operating a forklift in an adjacent aisle and attempting to bring down some merchandise from the high storage shelf.

DeBoo alleged in her lawsuit that she suffered a cervical end-plate fracture3 at C-6, right sternoclavicular injury at L4-5, facet arthropathy and sacroiliac joint injury, which resulted in more than $44,000 in medical bills.

The defendant admitted liability, but argued at trial that only the spinal fracture and sternoclavicular injury were related to this incident. The defendant maintained that the low back injury was not related to this accident.

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On Jan. 26, 2011, 23-year-old Jerry Oswalt was riding his bike from one dog walking customer’s home to another, riding southbound on Sacramento Avenue near its intersection with Logan Boulevard. Oswalt claimed that he entered the intersection on a green light but was hit at the bike’s rear tire by the defendant’s eastbound car, which ran a red light. The defendant, Esther Fragoso, was claimed to have caused Oswalt to fall and strike his head on the road knocking him unconscious. When he regained consciousness, his head was bleeding and he staggered out of the intersection to a nearby grass median with his bike and laid down.

Oswalt, in addition to the concussion he suffered, sustained a six-inch cut to the right temple area above his eye, facial scarring, a tiny cortical fracture, right orbital hematoma, right knee pain and contusions.

Fragoso, 77 and retired, argued that she had a green light and that Oswalt went through a red light. She also said that her vehicle never made contact with Oswalt’s bicycle and that she saw him lose control of his bike on the wet, snowy pavement and fall to the ground.

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In February 2009, Valerie Mobley’s Subaru developed transmission problems. Mobley found Best Transmissions, which acted as a broker and referred auto repair jobs to various repair shops. Mobley called the number listed on the website that she found and spoke to a salesman who told her that a neighborhood shop would do the repair work and that no work would be done without a prior estimate and customer authorization. Mobley was told that no charges would be assessed unless she decided to go elsewhere for the work.

Mobley received an e-mail that contained an agreement for authorization for the work on her car. The agreement listed the price not involving “hard parts” as $1,397. The next day a tow truck came and took the Subaru without telling her where the vehicle was being taken.

Mobley called Best Transmissions again and an employee there gave her the number of the repair shop. The repair shop was called Tramco and was located nearly 30 miles from her home. When Mobley called Tramco she was directed back to Best Transmissions. Mobley was told that Best Transmissions was the customer of Tramco, not Mobley.

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A Cook County jury returned a verdict for $1.5 million for Teodoro Ramirez, who was injured while moving roofing materials above a warehouse. The defendant construction company, FCL Builders Inc., requested on appeal from that verdict that the appellate court grant a new trial. FCL argued that the Cook County circuit court judge gave erroneous jury instructions that made the verdict unfair.

The appeals court found that the jury instructions did include error, but the court affirmed the ruling and verdict on the ground that the defendant did not suffer from the error.  In other words, the error was harmless.

It was an 84-page opinion written by appellate court Justice Robert E. Gordon. In conclusion, the appeals panel ruled that the jury instructions would not have affected the outcome of the case.

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