Plaintiff Trucking Expert’s Opinions Limited at Trial Result in Successful Verdict

December 14, 2015
Lew Bricker; Jamie Lane
SmithAmundsen Transportation Alert

SmithAmundsen Commercial Transportation partner Jamie Lane recently tried a case to verdict with his partner, Margaret Firnstein, in Federal Court in the Northern District of Illinois. Through well-known trucking expert, Lew Grill, plaintiff attempted to introduce multiple opinions including that the defendant truck driver operated his truck with an extreme violation of the standard of care, that the defendant truck driver fell asleep in violation of FMCSR 392.3, that the motor carrier failed to terminate the driver after the incident, and that truck drivers have a “higher degree of safe driving” and “greater driver performance duties in Illinois.” Careful foresight during the discovery and Motions in Limine stages resulted in the majority of Grill’s opinions being barred or limited, resulting in a successful defense result of a rear end accident.

Every driver in Illinois owes the same statutory duty to exercise due care, regardless of the size of the vehicle, and that is what the jury was to consider. 625 ILCS 5/11-1003.1 and Moore v. Swoboda, 213 Ill. App. 3d 217, 235-36 (4th Dist. 1991). Through Grill, plaintiff attempted to instruct the jury that motor carriers and their drivers have a higher duty in Illinois than the average motorist putting the plaintiff and defendant on an uneven battlefield. A thorough deposition of Grill allowed the defense to minimize Grill’s opinions at trial.

Jamie’s experience reminds us that strategic planning and execution matter. A consistent and thorough plan from discovery through trial allowed him to pin in expert Grill. Moreover, in the Northern District of Illinois, federal court once again proves to be a preferred venue.