The Illinois Supreme Court issued a recent opinion in an Illinois truck accident case, addressing whether Cook County was the proper venue for the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The plaintiff was driving a tractor-trailer when another tractor-trailer slammed into his truck. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries requiring amputation of both legs. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the truck driver for the negligent operation of a vehicle and his employer under the agency theory of liability. The plaintiff filed the lawsuit in Cook County, arguing that the venue was proper because one of the defendant’s employees maintained a “home office” in Cook County. In the alternative, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant was “doing business” in the county. The defendant moved to transfer venue, and the circuit court denied their motion.

Illinois has long held that the purpose of the venue statute is to ensure that “that the action will be brought either in a location convenient to the defendant, by providing for venue in the county of residence, or convenient to potential witnesses, by allowing for venue where the cause of action arose.” Venue choice is a defendant’s privilege and reflects the idea that defendants should not have to defend a lawsuit in a county where they do not conduct business, maintain an office, or where no part of the incident occurred. Where venue is in dispute, the defendant bears the burden of establishing that the venue is improper. The law distinguishes between improper venue and forum non conveniens. The latter asks the court to move the claim from one proper venue to another. Unlike forum non conveniens, improper venue issues are strictly statutory and do not concern public or private interests.

In this case, the accident occurred in Ohio, and no part of the action occurred in Cook County. In determining whether the defendant had an office in Cook County, it had to establish whether the defendant’s home office was an office “of” the defendant. In this case, the court reasoned that the defendant did not “purposely select” Cook County to carry on its business activities. Instead, it chose the employee to provide customer service to clients. They did not choose the employee based on his location, and it did not play a role in his hiring. Further, the defendant did not own, pay, or lease any expenses associated with the employee’s home office. Ultimately, the court found that the fact that the employee did work for the defendant from his office is insufficient to bolster the plaintiff’s claim that the home office was the defendant’s “other office”.

Under the Local Government and Governmental Employee Tort Immunity Act (the Act), public institutions such as Illinois government agencies, city governments, and recreational districts are immune from lawsuits. Historically, the purpose of the Act was to help the government operate efficiently without burdensome lawsuits. Generally, the Act protects public and government agencies from lawsuits stemming from negligence related to their operations.

However, several exceptions exist that waive the government’s immunity. Some exceptions are straight forward; however, some situations do not fall squarely within the enumerated exceptions. Moreover, the law imposes enhanced procedural requirements and damage caps on plaintiffs who file claims against the government in certain cases. Injury victims who wish to recover against a negligent city government agency or their employee must thoroughly and effectively gather and present evidence to support their lawsuits.

Lawsuits against the government often stem from injuries that the victim suffered on public property. Public property includes places such as city parking lots, city parks, public playgrounds, city buildings, public intersections, and city buses. In most cases, the law requires that the city does not act negligently; however, depending on the type of accident, the city may only have a duty not to act recklessly. Some common reasons people file lawsuits against the city stem from injuries related to city car and bus accidents, construction accidents, damages stemming from poorly lit streets or damaged sidewalks, and accidents at dangerous intersections.

Being injured on the job can often be traumatic and life-changing. However, it can be even more difficult to recuperate if the insurance company argues the accident is not covered under the insurance policy. In a recent Illinois Supreme Court case, the court was tasked with deciding whether an auto policy exclusion was ambiguous – and thus, whether the insurance company was required to cover the plaintiff’s injuries from the accident. Ultimately, the court decided the exclusion was not ambiguous and the insurance company did not need to provide coverage for the accident.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured on a farm after backing up a grain truck to an auger – a drilling device for making holes in the ground – when attempting to get more leverage to open the truck’s gate. In doing so, he stepped onto the auger and his foot was exposed to the turning shaft of the auger. The plaintiff wound up losing his leg below the knee. The insurance company that covered the grain truck argued they did not need to provide coverage because the injury was caused by an auger, not the truck. Since the auger is a mechanical device, coverage was therefore precluded under the policy’s mechanical device exclusion. The trial court agreed with the insurance company, ruling the mechanical device exclusion was unambiguous and thus ruled in their favor.

Courts have previously ruled that if a policy exclusion is ambiguous, it must be construed in favor of coverage. According to the court, ambiguity only exists where the policy language is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation. If the policy can be reasonably interpreted under its plain or popular meaning, the provision should be applied as written.

For most dog owners, our furry friends are important members of our families. A dog owner’s worst nightmare, however, is if or when their dog gets into a violent encounter with a person. Worse than that, however, is being on the other end of a Chicago dog bite attack. When a dog attacks, the injured party can pursue a claim against the animal’s owner.

In a recent opinion, a plaintiff sued seeking recovery for injuries she sustained after the defendants’ dog bit her. According to the court’s opinion, while the defendants were out of town, a friend kept an eye on their dog and invited the plaintiff and others to the defendants’ home. The defendants gave their friend instructions to care for their dog, and their friend had watched the dog on several occasions in the past. Before the incident, the dog had never bitten anyone or exhibited aggressive behavior and did not typically jump on visitors. The defendants testified that the dog would often growl at strangers from the window or car, or would bark at other dogs, and once got into a fight with another dog at the park. In addition, the defendants had owned the dog for seven years and did not generally keep the dog away from guests. The lower court ruled in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower court erred in ruling in favor of the defendants because they knew or had reason to know about the dog’s aggressive propensities. The court disagreed, reasoning that fights between dogs are not indicative of attacks on humans and that there was no case law indicating that an owner of a dog that growls at people is on notice that the dog poses a threat to humans. In addition, the court held that owners were not in a position to control the dog or prevent injury because they were out of town, so they could not be held liable. Because the defendants had relinquished care to their friend to watch the dog, they had no reason to believe their dog would be a danger to the friend’s guests. Thus, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision and ruled in favor of the defendants.

Slip and fall accidents often cause injuries

Slip and falls are common accidents that occur on another person’s premises. Some slip and falls do not lead to much of an injury, and others can be fatal. People are often too embarrassed to report such an accident, and many blame themselves for any injuries that may have occurred. However, people who are hurt in a slip and fall can pursue a Chicago personal injury case against the responsible parties.

In a recent Illinois appellate court case, the court was tasked with determining whether the defendant, a brewery, was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries even though the plaintiff was unable to prove the defendant knew about the dangerous condition.

We have all experienced the flashing lights and blaring siren as an ambulance speeds past us. However, no one plans to be involved in a car accident with one. Unfortunately, Chicago ambulance accidents regularly occur, and when they do, an ambulance driver may be liable for any resulting injuries.

In a recent Illinois Supreme Court opinion, the plaintiff suffered bodily injuries when a private ambulance ran a red light at an intersection and crashed into the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff claimed that at the time of the accident, the driver was not operating the ambulance with his siren and lights engaged. Further, the plaintiff argued that the defendant was not proceeding in response to an emergency and that no passengers were in the process of providing emergency or non-emergency medical services at the time of the collision. The plaintiff sued the company that owned the ambulance, as well as the driver.

The defendant ambulance company and driver moved to dismiss the claims based on the immunity provision of the Emergency Medical Systems (EMS) Act. Because the driver was operating the ambulance and providing non-emergency medical services at the time of the accident, the defendants argued they were immune from all civil liability unless the driver’s actions constituted willful misconduct. The plaintiff responded by arguing that the immunity provision of the EMS Act does not apply unless the ambulance is engaged in providing medical services to a patient. The mere use of the vehicle to pick up a patient for non-emergency transport, the plaintiff asserted, was not covered under the statute.

A federal court of appeals recently considered an Illinois car accident case in which the defendant construction companies failed to properly disclose their complete insurance coverage before a settlement. The case began after a van carrying six family members fell off the side of a road. One of the family members died and the others were all injured. The guardrail had been removed in the construction zone where the accident took place. There were also lines on the road that had been repaved and not repainted and there were pieces of asphalt left on the shoulder of the road.

The family filed a lawsuit against two construction companies that had done the construction work on the road. The attorney representing the two companies said to the plaintiffs that the defendant had a joint venture that had a $1 million insurance policy. The defendants’ attorney also sent required disclosures under Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which listed that the $1 million policy joint venture insurance policy as the defendants’ only insurance coverage. The parties then agreed to settle the case for $1 million based on the policy limit. The plaintiffs also signed a release with a non-reliance clause, saying that they were not relying on the statements of any of the attorneys.

Four years later, the plaintiffs discovered that the defendants had their own insurance policies in addition to the joint venture insurance policy. After this discovery, the plaintiffs filed a subsequent lawsuit, alleging that the defendants concealed their actual available insurance coverage. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants’ failure to disclose their coverage under Rule 26 was a misrepresentation and that the plaintiffs settled the case for $1 million based on that misrepresentation. The second lawsuit went to trial and a jury awarded the plaintiffs $8,169,512.84 in damages for negligent misrepresentation.

photo-3-3-300x225Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion hinging on a governmental immunity defense in an Illinois negligence lawsuit. The case arose after a construction worker fell and suffered severe career-ending injuries during a project.

The construction worker was assigned to a project after a Chicago water reclamation plant entered into a contract with a construction company for the removal of certain facilities. The government agency and construction company entered into an agreement that included provisions regarding acceptance of plans, and responsibility for the safety, maintenance, and repairs of the project.

The construction worker’s wife filed a lawsuit against the government district, alleging claims including construction negligence, loss of consortium, and willful and wanton construction negligence. The plaintiff argued that the district exhibited a conscious disregard and indifference for the construction worker’s safety.

Most people understand that when an Illinois resident is injured by another person, state law allows them to file a civil negligence claim to recover for their damages. However, the same principle is usually true even if the victim was injured by an animal, not a person. And, just like dog owners can be held responsible in an Illinois dog bite case if their canine inflicts injuries to others, Illinois law provides the same protection for those injured by livestock. The Illinois Domestic Animals Running at Large Act, usually referred to as the Animals Running Act, protects state residents from being harmed by others’ livestock running at large.

Illinois has a robust agricultural industry, and many of the state’s farms have cattle and livestock. The Animals Running Act, 510 ILCS 55, states that: “No person or owner of livestock shall allow livestock to run at large in the State of Illinois. All owners of livestock shall provide the necessary restraints to prevent such livestock from so running at large and shall be liable in a civil action for all damages occasioned by such animals running at large.” Put simply, the act creates a form of recovery for those who are injured when livestock is running at large due to their owner’s negligence, which, in turn, incentivizes owners to ensure that their livestock is properly restrained.

The act imposes a reasonableness standard on owners of livestock, so that they cannot be held liable if something outside of their control happens and they are unaware their livestock is running at large, so long as they can prove that they took reasonable precaution to secure the animals. For example, if an owner takes all available precautions to secure their cattle, but an unexpected tornado comes and damages the farm so that the cattle can run free, the owner can likely escape liability since he still took reasonable precautions.

Manufacturers and distributors of toxic or dangerous products that are used for consumer, commercial, or industrial purposes can be held accountable with the assistance of a Chicago personal injury lawyer for injuries or illnesses caused by their products, especially in instances in which the dangers of the product were deliberately concealed from customers. Exposure to asbestos, a compound that was once commonly used in consumer and construction products, has been linked to several deadly diseases, including cancer, and the manufacturers and distributors of many asbestos-containing products may be liable for damages related to their use of the deadly compound. The Supreme Court of Illinois recently decided an appeal filed by a man who claimed to have gotten cancer from asbestos exposure.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is an Illinois man who was exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s. Evidently, the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos through his work with construction equipment, as well as with brake parts that he used on his personal vehicles. When the plaintiff was later diagnosed with lung cancer, he filed suit against the defendants, claiming that their negligence caused his cancer. The plaintiff also claimed that the defendants’ willful concealment of the dangers related to asbestos exposed them to additional liability to the plaintiff.

Before the plaintiff’s case went to trial, the defendants successfully pursued a favorable judgment from the court on several of the plaintiff’s claims, citing previous Illinois appellate court opinions with similar allegations against the same defendants. The Supreme Court of Illinois had already ruled that nearly identical claims against one of the defendants in this case must fail as a matter of law, and the circuit court found it necessary to rule against the plaintiff on the same grounds. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Illinois Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court’s decision on procedural grounds, resulting in the defendants’ appeal to the highest state court.

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