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A Lake County, Illinois jury delivered a $4.5 million verdict in an Illinois personal injury case where a 60 year-old woman suffered injuries when a 67 foot tree fell on her as she was walking her dog near a golf course. This Illinois personal injury verdict is one of the highest in the past 20 years in cases where the injuries were caused by a falling tree. Cathy Stackhouse v. Lakemoor Country Club, Inc. et al., No. 08 L 610.

Cathy Stackhouse claimed that on April 26, 2008, she was walking her dog along the edge of the Lakemoor Country Club golf course property when a tree on the golf course fell on her. The tree limb hit Stackhouse between her shoulder blades that resulted in a fractured vertebrae in her lower back and a broken left ankle. She required surgeries for both injuries.

The jury returned the Illinois premise liability verdict against Lakemoor Country Club, Inc. and a co-defendant Royce Realty & Management Co., Inc. finding each to be 50% responsible. It was argued during the trial that the owner of the country club and its management company were both negligent for having chosen not to take the appropriate steps to inspect their trees along the course property.

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Like most extras working on Hollywood movie sets, Gabriela Cedillo most likely was required to sign a waiver prior to working on the set of Transformers 3. However, even if she had signed a waiver, Paramount Pictures, the production company producing Transformers 3, could be held liable for her severe injury while working as an extra on set. The Chicago personal injury lawsuit was filed in Cook County earlier this month, Adolfo Romo, etc. v. Paramount Pictures, et al., No. 10 L 11309.

On the date of her personal injury, Cedillo was participating in a scene with over 75 other extras. She was driving her car in the opposite lane of a flatbed truck hauling multiple cars. The scene involved a stunt wherein two of the towed cars would rise in the air and then flip, all while being pulled at over 50 mph. The scene was made possible by the use of a pulling cable.

However, on the date of injury the cable and bracket broke loose, whipping various parts into the oncoming lanes where the extras were driving. A large piece of iron struck the roof of Cedillo’s car, resulting in her severe personal injuries, including loss of vision in her left eye, permanent left sided paralysis, a brain herniation, and abdominal injuries.

Cedillo spent over a month in Loyola University Medical Center’s intensive care unit and remains in a rehabilitation facility for further treatment. Several surgeries later, she is still unable to speak and is being fed through a tube in her stomach.

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Under Illinois law, public entities, like schools or municipalities, have a heightened level of immunity from injuries that occur as a result of the use of public property. The rules governing this immunity fall under §3-106 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act.

A recent Illinois personal injury case was examined by the Illinois Appellate Court to determine whether the lower court was correct in dismissing the plaintiff’s willful and wanton misconduct count under claims of a school’s immunity under §3-106. In Peters v. Herrin Community School District, No. 4, et al., No. 5-08-0125 the Illinois Appellate Court for the Fifth District reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case back to the lower court.

In Peters, the minor plaintiff was injured while participating in a summer football camp sponsored by the defendant school district. The Illinois personal injury occurred when the plaintiff camper was running from the dressing room to the football practice field. The plaintiff and his fellow campers were following his coaches’ instructions as to what route to follow when the plaintiff tripped over a bumper on the shot-put pit. The bumper was obstructed from view by weeds.

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Vulcan Materials Co. recently reached a $40 million settlement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) in the case of The People of the State of Illinois v. Vulcan Materials Co., No. 01 CH 15986. The Illinois property damage lawsuit was brought by IDOT against Vulcan Materials Co. regarding damage the company caused to a mile-long section of Joliet Road in McCook, Illinois, a southwest suburb of Chicago.

The section of the road at issue was closed in 1998 after IDOT experts found that the road was no longer safe for public use. According to the IDOT experts, the damage was caused by limestone mining by Vulcan along both sides of Joliet Road. The mining had caused the road to buckle, making it unusable.

Vulcan contended, and continues to contend despite the settlement, that the damage to the road was caused not by its mining, but by an earthquake. However, since the case ended with a settlement and not a jury trial, the issue of who or what caused the damage was not determined. A settlement does not require an admittance of guilt on behalf of either party, but just requires that both parties agree to bring an end to the lawsuit.

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An Illinois Appellate Court recently reversed the lower court’s order dismissing an Illinois personal injury case in Oelze v. Score Sports Venture LLC, d/b/a Score Tennis and Fitness Center, No. 1-09-1476. While the lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on its opinion that there was no evidence to support plaintiff’s claims of willful and wanton misconduct on the part of the defendant, the Appellate Court found that there was a question of fact regarding whether the defendant had acted recklessly. And since there were material facts to consider regarding the defendant’s actions, the trial court should not have summarily dismissed the case.

The Illinois personal injury case involves a plaintiff that was injured while playing at an indoor tennis club where she was a member. She became injured when she was caught her foot in a rope exercise ladder while running for a play. At the time the exercise ladder was being stored behind a curtain at the end of the tennis court. The plaintiff sustained a broken elbow and torn rotator cuff.

The plaintiff originally filed an Illinois personal injury lawsuit alleging negligence by the owner-operator of the Illinois tennis club. However, that case was dismissed after the defendant produced an agreement signed by the plaintiff upon her application for membership which included a provision stating that the plaintiff released the defendant “from any and all liability for any damage or injury” that might occur while using the defendant’s equipment and facility.

The trial court found that under the agreement the plaintiff had voluntarily waived any liability for fault on behalf of the defendant. The dismissal of the original Illinois personal injury claim is not at issue here. However, it should serve as a warning to anyone signing an agreement or release that these documents often include language releasing a party from liability regarding future injury or harm. Even many Illinois nursing homes are including mandatory arbitration clauses to prevent patients from filing lawsuits as a result of Illinois nursing home abuse.

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A recent Cook County personal injury settlement highlights the importance of following building codes. The Illinois personal injury claim involves a 34 year-old male who injured his ankle after falling on stairs. The alleged cause of the worker’s fall was a non-uniform stair riser.

The stair that the man fell on allegedly measured about two inches higher than all the other stair risers in the relevant stairway. According to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, the rise of all stairs must be uniform:

4.9.2 Treads and Risers. On any given flight of stairs, all steps shall have uniform riser heights and uniform tread widths. Stair treads shall be no less than 11 in (280 mm) wide, measured from riser to riser (see Fig. 18(a)). Open risers are not permitted.

Some cities or townships may have even more detailed requirements regarding stair rise. For example, the Chicago Municipal Code requires that risers not vary in height more than 3/8 inches. Given that the current Illinois personal injury lawsuit involved a variance of almost two inches would qualify as a building code violation under the Chicago Municipal Code.

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A recent ruling by an Illinois Appellate Court reviewed whether the ‘contact-sports’ doctrine applies an independently contracted trainer who has been injured by an amateur sports player. The court overturned a ruling made by a lower court in the Illinois personal injury lawsuit.

The facts of the DuPage County case deal with a hockey trainer who brought an Illinois personal injury claim after sustaining permanent vision loss when he was struck in the eye by an errant hockey puck. The puck had been fired by an amateur hockey player who allegedly was “sniping” at bottles that were lined up on a nearby bench.

The DuPage County judge dismissed the trainer’s allegations of willful and wanton conduct on behalf of the player and the amateur team as well as the two counts of negligence against both defendants. In doing so the judge cited that the actions on behalf of the defendants qualified as ordinary carelessness under the Illinois contact-sports doctrine.

However, the Illinois Appellate Court disagreed with the DuPage County judge and reversed the lower court’s ruling, stating that the trainer’s claim was not barred under the contact-sports doctrine.

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In 1992, an 8th grader at a Chicago Public School broke his neck after hitting his head on a mat while attempting a flip. The incident occurred during an extracurricular lunch activity run by an employee of the Chicago Youth Centers at a Chicago Public School that owned the trampoline.

Ten years after the accident, a Cook County Circuit Court Judge granted summary judgment for the defendants. The judge agreed with the defense argument that absolute immunity applied under the Tort Immunity Act.

The Tort Immunity Act is to ensure that public entities and employees are not liable to pay damages to an injured third party. According to the Tort Immunity Act, public entities, such as Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Youth Centers, and public employees, such as the Chicago Youth Centers’ employee in charge of the extracurricular activity, are not liable for the actions and indiscretions of others. However, if a public employee’s actions or lack thereof constitutes willful and wanton conduct, the employee is liable for the injured third party.

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The holidays are a time of traveling home to your loved ones, which results in an increase of traffic at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Chicago’s Midway Airport, and other airports nationwide. And as we look forward to being reunited with our loved ones, the last thing on our mind is aviation safety.

Yet in a recent report appearing in the December issue of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine (ASEM), stated that more than 1,000 people a year are hospitalized for aviation-related injuries. Fortunately, this report includes all branches of aviation and only about one-tenth of those injuries involved passengers on commercial airlines. However, that still means that more than 100 of those people were injured while flying commercially.

A more in-depth look at the report reveals that the data was compiled from 2000 through 2005 and includes reports from airplane crashes, parachuting accidents, maintenance worker injuries, and passenger injuries that were sustained on the ground. The information came from databases maintained by the federal government’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project as neither the National Transportation Safety Board nor the Federal Aviation Administration collects complete information on all injured aircraft passengers.

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Chicago has long been known as the transportation hub of the country and has historically led the nation in air, trucking and rail transportation. However, changes in the economy and space limitations are limiting further expansion of Chicago’s transportation.

Since 2007 Chicago trucking companies have been going out of business or consolidating since 2007. However, Chicago commuters and drivers might not be able to tell given the high levels of road traffic and congestion that remain. Because of the high demand in the Chicago area, transportation assets have been stripped down and led to congestion, delays and calls for major public and private investments in the region’s capacity to move people and goods effectively.

Because U.S. exports are down by 24.3% since July 2008 and imports are off by 1/3, traffic volume in Chicago’s transportation industry is also down. The transportation industry was already heading down last year when oil prices spiked coupled with the Wall Street meltdown which dried up credit and further hampered freight traffic going into 2009.

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