An Illinois jury entered the highest Cook County verdict award for an adult fracture injury, awarding $1.9 million in Todd D. Smart v. City of Chicago, No. 07 L 14089. The Cook County personal injury verdict was substantially higher than both the plaintiff’s $500,000 demand to settle and the City of Chicago’s $100,000 settlement offer. According to a representative from the City’s law department, the City of Chicago plans to appeal the verdict in the First District Appellate Court.
The Illinois personal injury lawsuit arose out of a bicycle accident involving the 43 year-old plaintiff, Todd Smart. In 2007, Smart was riding his bicycle in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, near the intersection of Cortland St. and Marcy St., when he hit a road depression. At the time of the bike accident, the City of Chicago was performing road construction, leaving the road uneven at the time.
Smart was thrown forward over his handlebars as his bicycle came to a sudden stop. As a result of the bicycle accident, Smart suffered from a dislocated shoulder and sustained comminuted bone fractures. Prior to the bicycle accident, Smart led a fairly active lifestyle – not only was he the president of BeTuitive Publishing, but was also a former triathlon competitor.
Less than two weeks before the bicycle accident, City of Chicago construction crews had stripped the road surface as part of the road repair process. However, doing so exposed some electric company equipment and created an uneven surface. Further street depressions were created when the City covered the roadway with a new layer of asphalt in an effort to smooth out the road. In short, it was established that the road did not offer ideal bike riding conditions.
In its defense, the City referred to these hazardous conditions and sough to classify them as an “open and obvious defect,” which would provide the City immunity under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act. The Act holds a public entity, such as the City of Chicago, to a standard of exercising ordinary care when conducting its business. Under this theory of liability, it is the plaintiff’s duty to prove that the condition was unreasonably unsafe and that the public entity had actual or constructive notice of this unsafe condition.
The City further argued that the state of the roadway could not be classified as a “condition” since it was not the result of negligent maintenance, but was rather part of the road’s improvement. In addition, the City pointed to Smart’s contribution to the Chicago bicycle accident, asserting that he had failed to keep a proper lookout for road conditions, had elected to ride his bike through the construction zone, and had continued to ride at an unsafe speed.
After deliberating for only 90 minutes, the Cook County jury returned the $1.9 million verdict against the City of Chicago, which included:
-$717,136 for future medical expenses;
-$139,983 for past medical expenses;
-$200,000 for lost earnings;
-$80,000 for pain and suffering;
-$350,000 for future pain and suffering;
-$80,000 for loss of normal life; and
-$350,000 for future loss of normal life.
While there were obviously substantial awards for the medical expenses and suffering the plaintiff has undergone to date, it seems that the bulk of the jury award goes towards future expenses.
For over 35 years, Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Chicago bicycle accident lawsuits in and around Cook County and surrounding areas, including Vernon Hills, Rolling Meadows, Calumet City, Park Ridge, and River Forest.
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