Cook County Jury Verdict Finds for Motorist Over Bicyclist

On March 25, 2011, Lance Wright, a 50-year-old bicyclist, was on a public sidewalk heading southbound past a Walgreens store at its parking lot at 5431 S. Harlem Ave. in Chicago, Ill. The bike he was riding collided with the defendant’s car as it was leaving the parking lot. Wright argued that he was riding along the lot’s driveway when the defendant, John Holcomb, drove his car into the left side of Wright’s bike. 

The impact of the bike and the car threw Wright into the hood of Holcomb’s car, injuring Wright’s back and shoulder.

Holcomb drove Lance Wright to the hospital. Lance sustained a herniated disc at L3-4 and L4-5 and underwent two series of lumbar injections to help with his pain.  Surgery was recommended at a cost of $51,847. 

Wright argued at trial that Holcomb chose not to sound his horn while driving past the Walgreens building and onto the public sidewalk. Holcomb,  44, maintained that he was going only 2-3 mph as he passed over the sidewalk. Holcomb also said his view to the right of him was obstructed by the Walgreens building; he further said Wright rode directly into the passenger side of his car. 

Holcomb also asserted that Wright violated the Chicago Municipal Ordinance prohibiting bicycles on public sidewalks in a business district. The defendant also testified at trial that on the way to the hospital, Wright told him that the brakes on his bike were not working well. The defendant was unable to inspect the brakes because Wright had discarded his bicycle after this accident. 

The court struck the defendant’s affirmative defense of spoliation of evidence. Spoliation of evidence includes the non-preservation of potential evidence, which might include the destruction or significant alteration of evidence that is relevant to a pending matter or reasonably foreseeable to be relevant in upcoming litigation. The repercussions for the spoliation of evidence are that it may give one of the parties to the litigation an unfair advantage over the other.  In Illinois, there is no difference between negligent spoliation of evidence and intentional spoliation of evidence. The penalty for spoliation of evidence depends on the court.  There may be a contempt hearing, a monetary penalty, the entry of a default judgment or a debarment from maintaining any claim or defense related to that evidence.  Ill.S.Ct. Rule 219(c).

 In order to state a claim for negligence for spoliation of evidence, a party must plead the elements of ordinary negligence, which includes these elements:

  • That the defendant or party had a duty to preserve the evidence;
  • The defendant or party breached that duty;
  • The breach proximately injured the plaintiff or the other party; and
  • There is a resulting actual damage.

Boyd v. Travelers Insurance Company,166 Ill.App. 2d 188 (1995).

In this case, the defendant’s claim of spoliation of evidence was thrown out.  In any event, the jury found in favor of John Holcomb and against Lawrence Wright. At trial, Wright’s counsel asked the jury to return a verdict of $226,847.  There was no indication that an offer to settle the case was tendered before trial.

Lance Wright v. John M. Holcomb, No. 12 L 810 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling bicycle accidents causing severe injuries, motorcycle accidents and truck and auto accidents 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 Glencoe, Glenview, Chicago Heights, Wilmette, Niles, Elk Grove Village, Lincolnwood, Harwood Heights, Elmwood Park, Chicago (Rogers Park, Uptown, Andersonville, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, Edgewater, Clybourn Corridor, Polish Village, Jefferson Park), Norridge, Park Ridge and Cicero, Ill.

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