IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS

COUNTY DEPARTMENT, LAW DIVISION

 

THERESE A. CONNORS, )

)

Plaintiff, )

v. ) No.: 02 L-012171

)

SAUK TRAILS, INC. and ROBERT COOK, ) TRANSFERRED TO M-1

)

Defendants. )

 

MOTION OF SAUK TRAILS, INC. AND ROBERT COOK FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

 

NOW COME the Defendants, SAUK TRAILS, INC. and ROBERT COOK, by and through their attorney, LAW OFFICES OF LOWELL D. SNORF, III, and move this Honorable Court pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1005 for summary judgment on Count I and Count II of Plaintiffs Complaint at Law:

I.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEEDINGS TO DATE

On September 28, 2000, 51year-old THERESE CONNORS claims to have fallen on SAUK TRAILS, INC. charter coach bus no. 520, while the coach was driven in rush hour traffic on westbound I-294. As a result of her September 28, 2000 fall on the SAUK TRAILS, INC. coach bus, THERESE CONNORS claims to have received injuries. THERESE CONNORS was the tour director in charge of the tour, working for Fancy Free Tours, Inc.

On September 28, 2000, ROBERT COOK was the driver of the SAUK TRAILS, INC. coach bus. Bus passengers paid Fancy Free Tours, Inc. for the tour, not SAUK TRAILS, INC. Fancy Free Tours, Inc. hired SAUK TRAILS, INC. to drive the coach bus. The tour lasted three days.

As a result of THERESE CONNORS September 28, 2000 fall, on September 25, 2002, THERESE CONNORS filed a two count complaint (Exhibit A, Complaint at Law). Paragraphs 3-5 of both Counts I and Count II allege:

3. At the time and place the plaintiff, THERESE A. CONNORS, was an employee of Fancy Free Holidays Company, acting as a tour guide on said motorbus for various passengers.

 

4. At the time and place, while the plaintiff was standing in the front of the bus with her back to the front of the bus, the bus stopped or decelerated suddenly causing the plaintiff to be thrown into the front of the bus and down the stair well.

 

5. At the time and place, the defendants, SAUK TRAILS INC. & ROBERT COOK, and both of them, owed a duty of ordinary care not to injure the person of others, including plaintiff. (Emphasis added.)

 

ROBERT COOK and SAUK TRAILS, INC. answered the complaint and asserted affirmative defenses (Exhibit B, Answer to Complaint at Law with Affirmative Defenses).

II.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

 

On September 28, 2000, 51year-old THERESE CONNORS worked as a tour director for Fancy Free Tours, Inc. (Exhibit C, Therese Connors deposition transcript, p. 35, 46). Her tour responsibilities were limited to buses (Exhibit C, p.35, 46, 48). Prior to her September 28, 2000 trip, she had been on coach buses before and was trained by Fancy Free Tours, Inc. (Exhibit C, p. 50, 55, 92). On September 28, 2000, she was on a SAUK TRAILS, INC. tour bus which she considered a luxury motor coach; the coach was well kept and maintained (Exhibit C,p. 51, 52). She had no knowledge that SAUK TRAILS, INC. altered the bus in any way (Exhibit C, p. 54). Passengers were mostly seniors.

This was a private charter, on a tour to and from Mackinaw Island (Exhibit C, p. 55, 56). They were headed back to Chicago from Frankenmuth, Michigan. The final day of the trip, she never had any complaints about ROBERT COOKS driving, and he appeared to be a good driver (Exhibit C, p. 58, 59). She believes the accident happened on I-80/I-94, going west toward South Holland. It was late afternoon, around 5:00 oclock. The bus was in rush hour traffic (Exhibit C, p. 60). She does not recall traffic conditions, as her attention was focused on passengers (Exhibit C, p. 61, 62). At the time the bus stopped, she was standing in the front of the bus conducting a game for the passengers, entertainment (Exhibit C, p. 61,62). She was holding a microphone (Exhibit C, p. 63). She was standing with her back to the front of the bus, facing passengers (Exhibit C, p. 65). She did not know how the accident happened (Exhibit C, p. 72).

She did not know if she was holding onto anything in her left hand (Exhibit C, p. 64). Right when the bus stopped, she did not recall holding onto any part of the bus (Exhibit C, p. 64). She had no knowledge that ROBERT COOK knew he would have to make a sudden stop (Exhibit C, p. 65). She did not know about traffic conditions because she was standing up talking to passengers (Exhibit C, p. 65). She had no idea about ROBERT COOKS speed (Exhibit C,p. 65). She did not know why ROBERT COOK stopped (Exhibit C, p. 65-66). When ROBERT COOK stopped, she flew backwards. ROBERT COOK did not come into contact with any other vehicles (Exhibit C, p. 70).

Bus driver, ROBERT COOK, provided his deposition. On September 28, 2000, he drove coach bus no. 520. This was his usual coach (Exhibit D, Robert Cook deposition transcript, p. 66). It was a leased vehicle (Exhibit D, p. 100). On September 28, 2000, the weather was good and he had no problems with the coach (Exhibit D, p. 28). At the time of the occurrence, THERESE CONNORS was standing holding a microphone (Exhibit D, p. 37). THERESE CONNORS sometimes played games with the tour members (Exhibit D, p. 40). The coach bus drove westbound on I-80/I-294 (Exhibit D, p. 54). He was in the right lane to go to I-294 (Exhibit D, p. 54). At the time of the accident, he was driving 15 to 20 m.p.h. (Exhibit D, p. 66). The highway speed was 55 m.p.h. (Exhibit D, p. 66). He was coming up to I-80, and traffic was backed up (Exhibit D,p. 68).

Without notice, ROBERT COOK saw a red car come from his right and move into his lane (Exhibit D, p. 79, 118). ROBERT COOK saw the red cars brake lights come on, and that is when ROBERT COOK applied his brakes (Exhibit D, p. 79, 80-82). THERESE CONNORS fell when he was in the process of stopping (Exhibit D, p.83). There was no construction on the road; at the time of the stop, he was looking straightforward, and nothing obstructed his sight (Exhibit D, p. 106-107). He does not wear glasses and has never worn glasses (Exhibit D, p. 112).

Traffic was backed up (Exhibit D, p. 70). He applied his coach bus brakes because a car from the righthand lane, which is I-80, came over and stopped in front of him (Exhibit D, p. 71). The car that moved in front of him was a red car (Exhibit D, p. 72). The first time he saw it was when it pulled out right in front of him and stopped (Exhibit D, p. 72). He had no indication the red car was going to make it into his lane of traffic (Exhibit D, p. 76). The car came into his lane of traffic, and the car put its brakes on immediately (Exhibit D, p. 78).

There was no contact between the bus and the car that came in front of him (Exhibit D, p. 115). At the time THERESE CONNORS fell, she was standing, not holding onto any hand railings (Exhibit D, p. 116). While standing, in one hand she held a microphone (Exhibit D,p. 116). At the time THERESE CONNORS fell down, she was not holding onto anything other than what she had in her hands (Exhibit D, p. 117). There were railings and seats to hold on to (Exhibit D, p. 117). The coach was factory equipped, and SAUK TRAILS, INC. had nothing to do with the configuration of the bus (Exhibit D, p. 118). He had no notice a red car would come into the path of the moving bus (Exhibit D, p. 118).

Witness Oswald R. Scheuer provided his deposition. On September 28, 2000, Oswald R. Scheuer was a passenger on the coach bus, and he witnessed THERESE CONNORS fall. He was on the Fancy Free Tours, Inc. tour (Exhibit E, Oswald Scheuer deposition transcript, p. 5-6). THERESE CONNORS was the Fancy Free Tours, Inc. tour director in charge of the tour (Exhibit E, p. 42). He was seated in the left-front second seat behind the driver (Exhibit E, p. 6-8). He sat on the aisle, and his wife by the window.

The bus was in bumper to bumper traffic (Exhibit E, p. 9, 13). The roadway was full of cars. THERESE CONNORS was standing up talking on the microphone (Exhibit E, p. 46, 50). She had her back to the drivers seat (Exhibit E, p. 10). She was talking to the group while the bus was in traffic (Exhibit E, p. 11).

THERESE CONNORS said to passengers the traffic was loosening-up, and they would be proceeding (Exhibit E, p. 12). THERESE CONNORS said, everyone back to their seats (Exhibit E, p. 14). Three to four minutes later, the bus started to move. The bus started to crawl forward (Exhibit E, p. 14). All of the sudden, a car shot right through, and the car stopped in front of the bus (Exhibit E, p. 44). After the car cut in front of the bus, the bus driver stopped (Exhibit E, p. 16). When the bus was stopping, THERESE CONNORS went forward down the steps (Exhibit E, p. 17). The car came in front of the bus, and the bus driver applied the brakes (Exhibit E, p. 16). When the driver applied his brakes, THERESE CONNORS was standing (Exhibit E, p. 20). When the bus driver applied his brakes is when THERESE CONNORS went down the stairs (Exhibit E, p. 20, 46). The driver had no reason to believe the car would cut into his path (Exhibit E, p. 20). The driver stopped the coach bus to avoid smashing the car (Exhibit E, p. 21). The bus driver stopped just in time. The driver of the car had no business shooting in front of the bus (Exhibit E, p. 22).

The bus driver was not driving erratically or speeding before the accident (Exhibit E, p. 22, 23). He was not critical of the way the driver drove the bus (Exhibit E, p. 22-23). ROBERT COOK was a wonderful bus driver (Exhibit E, p. 12).

III.

ARGUMENT:

ON SEPTEMBER 28, 2000 ROBERT COOK AND SAUK TRAILS BREACHED

NO DUTY TO THERESE CONNORS, AND ARE ENTITLED TO

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

 

SAUK TRAILS, INC. was a private charter owing the duty of ordinary care to THERESE CONNORS. Doe v. Rockdale School District, NO. 84, 287 Ill.App.3d 791, 679 N.E.2d 771 (3rd Dist., 1997). Without any factual showing of negligence, THERESE CONNORS attempts to hold SAUK TAILS, INC. and ROBERT COOKS liable for THERESE CONNORS fall when ROBERT COOK was stopping for a car in traffic. Again, THERESE CONNORS said she was standing on the coach in rush hour traffic, focusing on her passengers (Exhibit C, p. 60, 61). She was talking on the P.A. system when the bus stopped in traffic. She may have been holding something in her hand; she did not remember (Exhibit C, p. 64). When the bus stopped she did not remember holding onto any part of the bus. She had no criticism of the way the driver drove the bus; no knowledge the driver knew he would be required to make a sudden stop; no knowledge as to the speed; no understanding why the bus needed to stop; she did not know how the accident happened (Exhibit C, p. 60-70). ROBERT COOK did not come into contact with any other vehicles.

ROBERT COOKS bus driving does not show negligence. He drove a factory equipped MCI motor coach which was unaltered by SAUK TRAILS, INC.

THERESE CONNORS, a professional bus tour guide, attempts to hold ROBERT COOK liable for THERESE CONNORS fall while ROBERT COOK was stopping for a car in traffic. THERESE CONNORS does not know whether she was holding on at the time of the accident or how the accident happened (Exhibit C, p. 64, 72). THERESE CONNORS was standing on a moving bus, with her back to the front of the bus, facing passengers; she was either playing games or announcing upcoming trips (Exhibit C, p. 63-66).

No Illinois precedent exists establishing ROBERT COOK and SAUK TRAILS, INC. can be liable for coming to a sudden stop without factually establishing the bus was negligently operated. Malone v. Chicago Transit Authority, 76 Ill. App.2d 451, 222 N.E.2d 93, 95 (1st Dist., 1996). In Malone, Lucille Malone and Betty Brown boarded a Chicago Transit Authority bus. As Betty Brown paid her fare, she called out to the driver, Do you see that car. The bus driver slammed on his brakes, and Betty Brown fell down. The bus did not hit the other cars. In affirming the trial courts directed verdict, the appellate court wrote:

The testimony of both plaintiffs does not disclose any fact giving rise to a reasonable inference that defendant was guilty of any negligence. At most, their testimony shows that they were standing in a crowded bus when an automobile made a turn in the middle of the street while the bus driver was looking in the front, and the bus driver slammed on his brakes. The bus made no contact with the other vehicle, and there is no testimony as to the speed of the bus. This, standing alone, does not make a prima facie case against a carrier. (Chicago Union Traction Co. v. Browdy, 206 Ill. 615, 617--619, 69 N.E. 570 (1904); Chicago City Ry. Co. v. Rood, 163 Ill. 477, 483, 45 N.E. 238 (1896).) There is no testimony from which it can be reasonably inferred that the driver failed to exercise due care. The mere fact that an accident resulting in an injury to a person or in damage to property has occurred does not authorize a presumption or inference that the defendant was negligent. (*455 Rotche v. Buick Motor Co., 358 Ill. 507, 516, 193 N.E. 529, 533 (1934).).

 

Nowhere has THERESE CONNORS factually established ROBERT COOK was inattentive, drove too fast or erratically, or had any reasonable notice the bus would be required to make a sudden stop (Exhibit C, p. 60-65). Both ROBERT COOK and Oswald R. Scheuer testified the bus stopped to avoid striking the car cutting in front of the bus (Exhibit D, p. 80-84; Exhibit E, p. 20-22). No facts have been established ROBERT COOKS actions were unreasonable (Exhibit E, p. 14-17). Again, SAUK TRAILS, INC. and ROBERT COOK operated as a private contract carrier, owing only the duty of ordinary care to THERESE CONNORS. Doe v. Rockdale School District, NO. 84, 287 Ill.App.3d 791, 679 N.E.2d 771 (3rd Dist., 1997). ROBERT COOKS stopping his bus in traffic is insufficient to raise an inference of negligence.

As explained by ROBERT COOK and Oswald R. Scheuer, the stop which occurred was incidental to ordinary travel. THERESE CONNORS must present some evidence of some act or omission on ROBERT COOKS part, combined with the sudden stop, to show ROBERT COOK breached his duty of ordinary care to THERESE CONNORS. THERESE CONNORS has not made this showing.

WHEREFORE, as there is no triable issue of fact sustaining the allegations of Count I and Count II of Plaintiffs Complaint at Law, the Defendants, SAUK TRAILS, INC. and ROBERT COOK, respectfully request this Honorable Court enter a summary judgment in their favor and against the Plaintiff.

 

 

 

 

 

LAW OFFICES OF LOWELL D. SNORF, III Respectfully submitted,

77 West Washington Street, Suite 703

Chicago, Illinois 60602

Telephone: (312) 726-8961

Att. No.: 71148 Lowell D. Snorf, III