While Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis joked she was there to "make everyone happy," both parties in a tractor trailer accident suit set for trial Tuesday had reasons to be less than thrilled with her rulings.
Callis decided several contentious issues in the suit including whether plaintiff Thomas Edwards' diabetes could be presented to the jury and how to "avoid a mini-trial" of his alleged non-compliance with doctors.
Thomas and Betty Edwards are suing Gary Collier and his employer, Millstadt Rendering Co., for damages in excess of $50,000.
The plaintiffs claim that Collier was driving a Millstadt tractor trailer when it lost a container on Interstate 55 in Ste. Genevieve County, Mo.
The tractor trailer eventually crossed the highway median into Thomas Edwards' lane, causing an accident that left him with severe injuries.
Collier and Millstadt claim that Thomas Edwards could have stopped or otherwise avoided the accident by slowing down.
Third party Slay Transportation Inc. filed to intervene in the case earlier this year.
The trial was set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday.
However, Callis pushed off the setting to 9 a.m. Tuesday after Collier and Millstadt filed last minute motions including a move to certify questions for appeal and to push off the Nov. 8 trial.
Those motions were moot by the time of Monday afternoon's hearing.
Callis heard those arguments Nov. 4 and found that there was not cause to delay taking the case to a jury beyond hearing pre-trial motion arguments Monday afternoon.
There are also counterclaims pending in the case against Thomas Edwards and Slay filed by Millstadt.
Callis allowed Millstadt to re-plead parts of its case against Slay after finding that the company's admission of respondent superior liability erased a number of the plaintiffs' allegations.
In the arguments over the diabetes, plaintiff's counsel Eric Carlson told Callis that the defense wanted to put on a "character
assassination" in lieu of a case.
Carlson told Callis that there was no evidence or relevant expert testimony from defense doctors that proved his client's vision was impaired by the diabetes when the accident happened.
"There is no evidence he had fatigue," Carlson said. "There is no evidence of blurred vision."
Defense attorneys Dominque Seymoure and Martin Morrissey countered that they did not have to prove the evidence at the hearing and that it would be up to a jury to decide whether or not the diabetes played a role in the accident.
The defense pointed to failed tests and Thomas Edwards' high glucose level following the accident.
Callis told Carlson she understood his concerns about the potential prejudice but that the issue needed to go to jurors.
"These rulings are so difficult because we don't know how the evidence is going to unfold," Callis said.
She said that the issue of Thomas Edwards' compliance with doctor orders related to his condition would be kept to a strict minimum because the judge wanted to avoid a "mini-trial."
After a number of questions by Carlson and the defense table, Callis stood by her ruling.
"I'm making everybody happy," Callis quipped.
The hearing also barred evidence of the Millstadt tractor trailer's
condition because it was destroyed following the accident and unavailable for plaintiffs' inspection.
Dominique Seymoure and Martin Morrissey represent Collier and Millstadt Rendering.
Eric and John Carlson represent the plaintiffs.
Michael Ward represents Slay Transportation.
The case is Madison case number 08-L-813.