Defense verdict reached in pedestrian's suit against teen driver
The jury in Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla's courtroom arrived at a verdict in favor of the defense following a three-day trial over a pedestrian's injuries on Route 159.
During closing arguments Wednesday, plaintiff's attorney Keith Short had asked jurors to award $129,799 for his client Marilynn Dixon.
According to testimony, Dixon was crossing Route 159 in Glen Carbon near the intersection of Dogwood Estate at 7 a.m. on April 17, 2009 when she was hit by William Maggart's northbound pickup truck.
Maggart, then 19-years-old, was driving down a residential road on his way to Edwardsville High School, where he was a student.
Though he had a victory in the courtroom, defense attorney James Hodges had no comment.
Short made little effort to hide his emotion after the verdict was read.
"We may not like the fact that this is unexplained negligence," Short said during closing arguments. "Nobody wants a scar across their forehead."
"The police officer said there was nothing wrong with what she did. She did what every reasonable person would do."
"There were no cars passing. The cars were so far away, they weren't a concern."
Hodges told the jury the plaintiff had a burden of proving Maggart was negligent.
"I don't believe the plaintiff proved negligence," Hodges said.
Hodges reminded the jury that Lois Foster, the plaintiff's friend who was walking with her the day she was hit, testified Maggart looked to the left and the right.
"She told you in her opinion, Mr. Maggart did everything he was supposed to," he said. "At this point, Mr. Maggart acted as a reasonable person. You heard Miss Dixon. You heard she was out for a walk.
"The evidence shows he acted reasonably."
During opening arguments, Short first described the trial as a "case of a 19-year-old man driving his pickup truck into a 60-year-old woman."
Short told the jury his client's head split open, and she fell to the ground after impact.
"She was that close to getting killed," he said. "She ended up with a two-inch scar across her forehead.
"There was a young man who decided he was going to pull out without looking. You might hear him say the sun was in his eyes. The evidence will show he wasn't looking."
Dixon claims she suffered injuries to her knees, experienced pain, suffering, and incurred medical costs.
"She is going to live with these damages for the rest of her life," Short said.
Hodges also told the jury Maggart looked to the left and to the right before crossing the highway.
"There's no reason for a pedestrian to be in the middle of the highway at 7 a.m.," he said. "He (Maggart) was where he was supposed to be."
Hodges told the jury that Dixon, who was crossing the highway with her friend, was taking a shortcut, so they did not have to talk all the way to the crosswalk.
Hodges argued that Dixon's negligence caused her injuries, that she failed to use a crosswalk; started crossing the highway but stopped without completely crossing the street when it was unsafe to cross the street; that she stood in a lane reserved for vehicles; and that she failed to yield.
Paul Cates, a Glen Carbon police officer who responded to the scene, testified that he saw two women in the center turn lane with minor injuries.
Madison County case number 09-L-799.