Cook County Jury Finds for Driver of Car in Motorcyclist’s Injury Case – Utterback v. Isenhart

When it comes to car accident lawsuits, a jury will very rarely reward a driver for engaging in dangerous behavior. This trend held true in the motorcycle accident case of Edward Utterback, Janette Simons v. Dawn Isenhart, 09 L 15849. The jury found in favor of the defendant after determining that the plaintiff motorcycle driver was 100 percent at fault for the accident.

The motorcycle crash occurred near the Chicago intersection of Clark Street and Granville Avenue. The defendant, Dawn Isenhart, was making a right-hand turn into the parking lot of the Raven Theater. As Isenhart turned, she collided with Edward Utterback’s motorcycle, throwing both he and his passenger from the vehicle.

Utterback sustained a rib contusion, or bruise, and suffered from neck pain following the motorcycle accident. Janette Simons, his passenger, fractured her right collar bone, sustained “road rash,” and required stitches. She also reportedly lost consciousness at the scene of the crash.

Both Utterback and Simons filed a personal injury claim against Isenhart in which they contended that Isenhart’s negligent driving caused their injuries. And while both parties initially included lost wage claims for their missed time from work, Utterback withdrew his claim prior to the Cook County trial.

At the Chicago personal injury trial, Isenhart testified that she had almost completed her turn into the parking lot at the time of the motorcycle accident. She stated that her car was already at the apron of the parking lot when Utterback’s motorcycle struck her car’s front passenger side. Isenhart maintained that she was in the process of properly made a right-hand turn into the theater’s parking lot.

And while Isenhart’s testimony regarding her own actions was helpful in showing she was not at fault, perhaps more damning for Utterback was the evidence showing that the accident occurred in the parking lane and not on the roadway. And while Isenhart needed to drive across the street parking lane in order to reach the parking garage’s entrance, Utterback had no reason to be driving in the parking lane.

Isenhart’s attorney used this piece of evidence to demonstrate that it was in fact Utterback whose driving was negligent. At the time of the motorcycle crash, Utterback was attempting a dangerous pass on the right side, a move that required him to drive in the parking lane. The implication was that had Utterback not been in the parking lane, he might have been able to avoid the accident.

In order to assist the jury in reaching a conclusion, the defense submitted a special interrogatory whether:

On July 5, 2009, was the plaintiff Edward Utterback’s contributory negligence, if any, more than 50% of the cause of his injuries?

In Illinois, if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% responsible for his or her own injury, then a defendant is not responsible for paying damages for those injuries. In Utterback, the jury found that the plaintiff motorcyclist was 100 percent at fault. Therefore, Isenhart was not responsible for paying for any of Utterback or Simons’s injuries and lost wages.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois motorcycle accident cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Grayslake, Dolton, Tinley Park, Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, and Palatine.

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