The Illinois Supreme Court has let stand a $2.2 million verdict against Imo's Franchising and Imo's Bethalto involving a 2009 accident that left an East Alton man severely injured.
The high court on Wednesday denied the Imo's defendants leave to appeal a September ruling out of the Fifth District that affirmed judgment for injuries Matthew Bruntjen suffered in a crash with pizza delivery driver Kenneth Lyerla.
Bruntjen’s case went to jury trial before Madison County Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian in December 2011. Jurors found Bethalto Pizza 70 percent responsible and Imo’s Franchising 30 percent responsible for Bruntjen’s injuries.
Alton attorney Charles Armbruster, who represented Bruntjen at trial, has stated that his brain-injured client remains disabled five years after the accident.
After the Fifth District affirmed the Madison County verdict, Imo’s sought review by the Illinois Supreme Court which refused to hear the appeal.
Dissenting appellate court justice Stephen Spomer, now retired, had stated that he would have granted a new trial to the defendants because of Matoesian's “biased” questioning of a witness and his tolerance of collusion during jury selection.
Spomer branded jury selection as “egregious,” writing that Matoesian in essence gave 12 peremptory challenges to the plaintiff and four to the defendants. Peremptory challenges allow attorneys to reject a certain number of potential jurors without stating a reason.
Armbruster reacted to the Supreme Court decision, stating, "This decision affirms that the citizens of Madison County expect safe driving from all motorists, and especially from professional delivery drivers.”
“Although Imo’s disqualified delivery drivers who had three moving violations in an 18-month period and required local stores to monitor drivers’ records, no one checked this driver’s record. If they had looked at the information that they had in their own files, they would have found that their driver had three moving violations and should have been disqualified before the collision.”
A case against driver Lyerla remains pending in Madison County.
Attorneys Roy Dripps and Michael Blotevogel also represented Bruntjen on the appeal.