Fifth District passes Pizza Hut case back to Madison County

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 23, 2007, 8:30am



The Fifth District Appellate Court put on hold Edwardsville attorney Amanda Verett's hope for a $311,700 award in the Pizza Hut door case.

Verett appealed to overturn Madison County Circuit Court Judge Nicholas Byron's decision to vacate a default judgment leveled against Troy police officer Clarence Jackson.

Justices James Wexstten, Melissa Chapman and Bruce Stewart dismissed the appeal ruling Byron's June 22 order was not a final and appealable judgment because the merits of the case are still pending.

The justices also ruled that the appeal failed to vest them with jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 303.

On May 16 Byron awarded Verett a handsome sum for injuries she allegedly received while holding a door open for Jackson at the Troy Pizza Hut on Feb. 12.

Verett, a family attorney in Edwardsville, filed suit against Pizza Hut and Jackson alleging she was injured as she held open the door to allow herself and Jackson to exit the restaurant.

She claimed Jackson grabbed the door in such a fashion that it caused the door to suddenly and sharply move and injured her right shoulder.

She claimed Jackson violated his duty to use ordinary care for the safety of others when he operated the Pizza Hut door which caused her to sustain an acromion process impingement in her right shoulder.

Verett claimed that due to the injury she suffered at Pizza Hut, she was unable to avoid falling on a later date and tore tendons and suffered injuries to her left hand and wrist, including a partial tear of the pronator quadratus muscle at the dorsum.

She claimed her injuries caused her to suffer a disfigurement, severe pain and discomfort and medical expenses.

After Byron entered his default order, Jackson filed a motion to vacate the judgment claiming he was on duty answering a 911 call at the pizzeria.

Jackson stated he is statutorily immune from allegations of negligence because Verett's suit arises from his response to a 911 call at the Pizza Hut.

In his motion to vacate, Jackson said that once he was served with the summons, he turned it over to the city of Troy for the assumption of his defense pursuant to statute.

He also claims he never even came into physical contact with Verett during the incident.

Sworn affidavits and other court documents filed by Troy officials, including the police chief and assistant city administrator, state Jackson responded to a 911 call from Pizza Hut because Verett and her male law partner were causing a disturbance.

Documents filed in the case also claim Verett went to the Troy Police Department after the incident to complain about Jackson's "bad attitude," but she did not complain of any injuries.

The next hearing in the case is Sept. 14, on Jackson's motion to dismiss.

Jackson claims he is a public employee and enjoys "absolute immunity" with respect to Verett's claim.

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