Summary Dismissal Overturned in Traffic Accident Lawsuit
This case involved a car being driven by the defendant and a bicycle being ridden by the plaintiff. In this case, the girl, who was a minor, was riding her bike on the street when she was struck by the defendant’s vehicle. Her father was on the back porch, but heard the impact. Her mother was in the house at the time of the accident. The victim could not remember the circumstances surrounding the event.
Nonetheless, the plaintiff filed suit on behalf of the minor claiming that the defendant was negligent on the basis of failing to keep a lookout, failing to sound the horn upon approach, and failing to reduce speed. The defendant passed away before the suit could be brought to court, so the action remained alive against his estate.
The defense made two arguments in this case. First, The Dead Man’s Act would prevent the mother and father from testifying concerning the case. Further, since neither the mother or the father witnessed the event, and the victim had no memory of the event, there was no one to offer testimony concerning negligence. The plaintiffs responded by asserting that the father had provided testimony during depositions and that he could provide some testimony to the court concerning what he heard. Additionally, the Dead Man’s Act did not apply to the father because he would not materially benefit from the outcome of the trial.
The circuit court granted the defendant’s motion for summary dismissal and the plaintiffs successfully appealed the decision.
Analyzing the appeal
Summary dismissal is only granted in specific situations. One situation that does not afford itself to summary dismissal is when there is a dispute over a material fact in a case. The sticking point in this case is whether or not the daughter was riding her bike in the street. The father said he did see part of the accident and that the daughter was only allowed to ride her bike on the sidewalks and in the street. If so, then the daughter was struck while she was on the sidewalk and there would be a strong negligence claim against the defendant.
However, according to a crash report, the accident took place in the middle of the street, not on the sidewalk. The father disagreed with the accuracy of the diagram and insisted that his daughter was struck on the sidewalk.
While this may sound improbable, it does create an issue where there is a dispute over a material fact. The defendant is insisting that the bicycle was struck in the street, while the plaintiff contends that the bicycle was struck on the sidewalk. Therefore, the appellate court determined that the summary dismissal was inappropriate for these allegations and the case was remanded back to the circuit court.
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