Third-Party Defendant Held Responsible for Ice Patch That Caused Car Accident – Ponto v. Levan

As the temperatures begin to cool in Chicago, every Illinoisan is aware that winter is just a few short months away. And with midwest winters come more dangerous driving conditions, e.g., icy roads, slick snow, and dangerously low temperatures. The Illinois personal injury lawsuit of Ponto v. Levan arose out of just such dangerous road conditions – the defendant driver hit the plaintiff after sliding on an ice patch. What is interesting about the Ponto lawsuit though is that it gave rise to Levan v. City of Dixon, a third party lawsuit in which the defendant driver blamed not the winter weather for the ice patch, but the City of Dixon itself.

In February 2008, Denise Ponto was driving along Route 2 in Dixon, Illinois when Dale Levan’s vehicle crossed the lane of traffic and crashed into Ponto’s vehicle. As a result, Ms. Ponto sustained a comminuted knee fracture and needed to be airlifted to Rockford’s St. Anthony Hospital for treatment. A comminuted fracture occurs when a bone is broken in several places, which then requires an open reduction internal fixation surgery with the insertion of screws and plates to help fix the broken bones in place. Ms. Ponto’s treatment was further complicated by her development of deep vein thrombosis, i.e. blood clots, and cellulitis, a skin infection caused by bacteria. As a result of the lengthy treatment, Ponto missed five months from her job as a bartender.

Ponto filed a personal injury lawsuit against Levan in which she claimed damages for the injuries she sustained after his truck skidded into her lane of traffic. And while Levan admitted he was drunk at the time and was at fault for the car accident, he felt the City of Dixon was also at fault. Levan contended that the ice which his car skidded on was the result of a broken City water main. The defendant then filed a third party claim against the City of Dixon for its part in causing the auto accident and Ms. Ponto’s injuries.

To support his claim against the City, Levan presented evidence that showed that the City had known that the water main was broken prior to the car crash, yet had not replaced the broken water main until after Ms. Ponto was injured. Levan used this evidence to support his claim that the City had failed to properly inspect and repair the water pipes running under Route 2 prior to the accident and that its failure to do so had led to the formation of the ice patch which Levan’s vehicle skid on. Under this theory of liability, since the City had contributed to the cause of the Illinois car accident, Levan argued that it should also be held at least partially responsible for Ponto’s injuries.

Levan settled his claim with Ponto for the maximum limit of his insurance policy, i.e. $100,000. However, this settlement did not mark the end of the litigation that arose out of the February 2008 car accident; the claim against the City of Dixon was still outstanding. In Illinois, the legal doctrine of joint and several liability attests that each named defendant, including the third party defendant, can be held responsible for the entire judgment. The final judgment entered in this case was $585,124. Levan had already settled with Ms. Ponto for $100,000; therefore, the amount of the settlement was set off against the judgment and considered his contribution to the total verdict. This left the City responsible for the remaining $485,124 as payment for the damages that arose out of its negligence in creating the ice patch that caused the Illinois car accident.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois automobile accident cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Naperville, South Holland, Orland Park, Des Plaines and Flossmoor.

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