Illinois Appellate Court Holds For Truck Driver in Highway Rollover Case, Reversing Trial Court Decision; Foreman v. Gunite Corporation

Robin R. Foreman v. Gunite Corporation, 2012 IL App. (1st) 091644U.

Robin Foreman was a truck driver employed by Distribution Services, Inc. (DSI). He had a regular truck route transferring material from Gunite Corporation‘s Illinois facility to its Indiana location.

Foreman was traveling eastbound on I-290 near its intersection with the Tri-State Tollway when the load in his trailer shifted, causing the truck to roll over.

At his deposition, Foreman testified that he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident causing him to fail to remember the details of the rollover itself. However, he did recall that his truck was loaded with pallets and that the trailer was half full. The pallets that were lined up in the middle of the truck were not properly fastened down. A bill of lading confirmed that Foreman was carrying a below-capacity load.

Another driver, Joseph Grossman, testified at his deposition that it was a common practice for the Gunite Corp. to haul half-loaded trucks, including the one to which Foreman was assigned. Grossman also testified that since the pallets were not secured, they shifted easily in the trailer. When the trucks reached Indiana, several o their trailers were severely tilted. Grossman offered the opinion that the only reason that the Foreman truck rolled over was because of the way it was loaded.

The Indiana State Police report indicated that the driver (Foreman) had noticed his trailer starting to lean as he entered I-294. Foreman lost control of the truck, which struck the wall on the right shoulder, followed by the rollover.

The internal investigation completed by DSI found that the accident was caused by driver error because of excessive speed. DSI examined photographs, reviewed the accident report and interviewed the witnesses. Gunite moved for summary judgment arguing that Foreman had no proof of proximate cause of his injuries and the rollover. The motion stated that plaintiff’s lawsuit as to proximate cause was speculative. The rollover could have been caused by any number of things. The trial court agreed, and granted summary judgment dismissing the case.

The appellate court reversed. Proximate cause may be established, the court wrote, “through circumstantial evidence, so long as the circumstances are related to each other that it is the only probable, and not merely possible, conclusion that may be drawn.” At the summary judgment stage, a plaintiff is not required to prove up his or her case to support the cause of action.

The appellate court determined that Foreman had presented enough evidence that a jury could, with reasonable certainty, find that the loading of the truck was the reason it rolled over.

The appellate court added that Foreman’s excited utterances proved that the truck had been leaning. That left an inference that the lean was caused by the load shifting, which was also corroborated by Grossman’s deposition testimony.

On the other hand, the court noted that DSI’s accident report was not based on any accident reconstruction or other scientific methods. Gunite argued that as Foreman was unable to remember the accident, he could not establish a prima facia case. The appellate court, critical of that argument, said that if that were the case, no plaintiff could ever bring a negligence case if he did not remember the circumstances surrounding the event because the proximate cause argument couldn’t be based on conjecture.

In conclusion, the appellate court held that the plaintiff, Foreman, presented enough evidence to create factual issues for the jury to decide at the time of trial. Therefore, summary judgment was the wrong decision by the trial judge.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling trucking accidents, serious personal injury and has been protecting individuals and families from unsafe medical devices and pharmaceutical products for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Ukrainian Village), Chicago (West Loop), Berkeley, Hillside, Bellwood, Northlake, Villa Park, Wood Dale, Northbrook, Palatine and River Grove, Illinois.

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