Jury begins deliberations in Alton foot amputation suit; plaintiff asks for $5 million
The jury in a suit over a motorcycle accident in Alton began deliberations Friday afternoon after hearing the final witnesses and closing arguments from both sides.
They continued into Friday evening.
In his closing argument, plaintiff's attorney Chris Kolker claimed that the defendant, Enver Hamiti, would not "take responsibility," for causing an accident that left plaintiff Steven Kirk disabled and without his right foot, going to such lengths as "exploiting" a woman with mental illness, Kolker said.
Kolker suggested that about $5 million in damages would be appropriate compensation for his client's lost foot and welding career. That figure included over $300,000 in past medical bills, future prothetic costs and over $1.5 million dollars for pain and suffering.
Defense attorney Marc Kurz dismissed Kolker's arguments in his own statement, telling the jury that alcohol consumption by the plaintiff and his speeding were "all over this case." Kurz asked the jurors not "to split the baby," referencing the biblical incident with King Solomon and to find in favor of his client.
Kirk is suing Hamiti for allegedly running a stop sign in Alton, striking his motorcycle, and causing him severe shoulder and leg injuries.
Hamiti claims that Kirk contributed to the accident.
Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla is presiding.
During the trial that began Monday, both sides presented evidence of the other's role in the accident. And both sides had issues arise as witnesses took the stand.
Under cross examination by Kurz, Kirk admitted he did not know how many drinks he had on the day of the accident. According to the testimony of the doctors who treated him following the accident and his medical records, his blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was well over the legal limit of 0.08.
A defense witness, Helen Brockman, testified she saw and heard the accident from her apartment near the intersection of Ridge and Fifth streets in Alton. However, Brockman testified to a history of mental illness and learning disabilities. The plaintiff called her landlord to the stand and entered her rental application into evidence. It showed that Brockman was not living at that address until six months after the accident.
"Their star witness lied," Kolker said in his closing argument. He acknowledged his client had been drinking but pointed to testimony by experts that the drinking did not impact the accident. He showed jurors photos of the sightlines at the intersection, claiming Hamiti pulled out over 20 feet from the stop sign to enter Kirk's lane of traffic. Kolker told jurors that his client, if they thought alcohol played a role, could accept ten to 15 percent of the blame.
Kurz dimissed Kolker's arguments. He cited the testimony of "the Duke," Officer John Wayne of the Alton Police department as truthful and as having testified that he could not see what the plaintiff claims Hamiti saw.
"He vindicated Mr. Hamiti," Kurz told the jury of Wayne's testimony.
Kurz stressed Kirk's intoxication.
"He wants to run from alcohol at every turn and alcohol is all over this case," Kurz said, calling Kirk "a loaded gun" for getting on his motorcycle after drinking.
On the contribution issue, Kurz told the jury that the plaintiff was asking them to "split the baby," a biblical story.
"And splitting the baby is never the thing to do," he said, admonishing them not to "compromise," because his client did not cause the accident.
After closing arguments finished, Hylla instructed the jury. They began their deliberations just before 1 p.m. Friday.
The case is Madison case number 07-L-165.
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Alton Police Department
1700 E Broadway
Alton, IL 62002