VERDICT AFFIRMED AGAINST CAB COMPANY Joseph P. Shannon | Shannon Law Group, P.C. TEL: 312.578.9501 | www.ShannonLawGroup.com
Margaret Baumrucker v. Express Cab Dispatch Inc., Luis Leal 12L-6839 Tried May 8-12, 2015
$897,741: $397,741 compensatory damages ($150,000 pain and suffering; $150,000 loss of normal life; $25,641 past medical expenses; $50,000 future medical expenses; $22,100 lost wages) plus $500,000 punitive damages.
Special Interrogatory: Did Express Cab Dispatch Inc. act willfully and wantonly when it entrusted the vehicle to Luis Leal? Yes.
Affirmed on Appeal:
July 18, 2017. First Chicago Insurance Company paid the entire judgment plus interest, including the punitive damages awarded to the Plaintiff — $1,087,446.97 Michael T. Reagan was counsel of record along with Shannon Law Group, P.C.
Michael R. Panter (IL Cook-Law)
Joseph P. Shannon and Patrick D. Cummings of Shannon Law Group (Woodridge) OFFER OF COMPROMISE: $250,000; ASKED: $1,900,000
Robert Schey and John E. Broussard of Robert Schey & Associates for both defendants (First Chicago Insurance) PRETRIAL OFFER: $70,000
On October 17, 2011, Margaret Baumrucker (“Marge”) was walking to work when defendants’ taxicab struck her in a crosswalk at the intersection of Oak Park Avenue and Windsor Avenue in Berwyn. Ms, Baumrucker, a now-retired psychiatric nurse, sustained rotator cuff tendinopathy and glenoid labral tears and shredding in her left shoulder (unoperated), which will require periodic physical therapy treatment for the rest of her life. Plaintiff asserted that defendants’ cab company was willful and wanton in its failure to properly vet defendant Luis Leal before hiring him as a taxi driver, including failure to check his prior driving record, investigate his employment background, or adhere to Express Cab’s own hiring standards and practices; they also failed to provide any training after hiring him. Leal started working for Express just three weeks prior to the occurrence, and he reportedly had a poor driving record. The defense denied willful-wanton misconduct and denied that Marge was permanently injured. The Cook County jury found that Express Cab showed an utter indifference to the safety of plaintiff and others when they handed over the keys to their taxicab to an unqualified driver. The jury awarded Mrs. Baumrucker
$897,741, which included $500,000 in punitive damages — an amount the jury determined to be necessary to punish defendants’ conduct and discourage defendants and others from future wrongful conduct in vetting drivers. In its unanimous 28-page decision, the Illinois Appellate Court recently upheld the decision by the Circuit Court of Cook County that a company who puts a dangerous or incompetent driver behind the wheel may be liable for punitive damages if it was reckless in vetting the driver. Rather than merely relying on a driver’s license and chauffeur’s license, companies will have to develop some method to ensure that the drivers they put behind the wheel are not a menace to the public. “Illinois courts have long recognized that a vehicle in the hands of an incompetent driver is a dangerous instrumentality,” says Joseph Shannon of Shannon Law Group, P.C. who represented the plaintiff. “This decision shouldn’t be a change in the law, but sadly it is. Now cab companies are on notice they must vet drivers to ensure that they are not putting their vehicles in the hands of incompetent drivers. They can no longer point to state or city licensure and wash their hands of responsibility.”www.shannonlawgroup.com
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