A woman alleging injuries following a Glen Carbon vehicle accident is asking the court to sanction the defense counsel after they allegedly violated two orders in limine during trial last week in Madison County.
On Dec. 2, plaintiff Heather Ragan filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, renewed motion for directed verdict and motion for sanctions.
According to the motion filed by attorney Peter Maag of the Maag Law Firm in Wood River, she argues that the case was originally set for jury trial on July 13 before the trial was continued to Nov. 30.
Prior to the first trial being adjourned, Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder ruled on seven motions in limine filed by Ragan. In her rulings, Crowder prevented Lewis from mentioning pregnancy-related issues and any mention of injures or lack thereof sustained by the defendant.
However, on Tuesday, defendant Tracy Lewis and her counsel, William Knapp and Heather Mueller-Jones of Knapp Ohl & Green, “dedicated a large portion of their case in chief to discussing children, children ‘to be,’ and that she was driving to get an ultrasound at the time of the occurrence.”
“The questioning directed at defendant by her counsel was either deliberately or grossly incompetent, calculated to violate a court order, and did little more than play up jury emotions and sympathy,” the motion states.
Ragan alleges Circuit Judge John Barberis “chastised” the defendant’s counsel outside the presence of the jury but denied a mistrial.
Shortly after that incident, Ragan alleges Lewis’ attorneys violated a second order in limine during her closing statements when she talked about how the defendant sought no medical treatment and had no injuries.
Barberis denied a second motion for mistrial but encouraged Ragan’s counsel to file a post-trial motion “if things ‘went badly.’”
“Plaintiff is highly prejudiced by defendant and defense counsel’s trial conduct and gamesmanship that repeatedly disregarded this court’s orders. Plaintiff and her counsel have now had to prepare for two trial settings, only to deal with highly prejudicial comments and incurring expenses,” the motion states.
Ragan now seeks a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and renews her motion for a directed verdict so that a liability finding may be entered in her favor. She also asks the court to re-set this case for a trial on damages only.
In addition, Ragan asks the court to enter sanctions “for the repeated violations of orders in limine, even after being chastised by the court for an order in limine violation, to compensate her for the hours and amounts spent preparing for trial and subpoenaing witnesses, only to have the jury tainted with numerous prejudicial and irrelevant remarks, previously barred from being mentioned by court order.”
Lewis also filed an order for directed verdict.
In her Dec. 1 motion, she argues that “the evidence at the close of plaintiff’s case so overwhelmingly favors the defendant that no verdict other than the one in favor of defendant could ever stand.”
Ragan filed her lawsuit against Lewis on Aug. 18, 2014. The case was first set in Associate Judge Tom Chapman’s court.
Ragan alleges that on May 21, 2014, she was driving a vehicle northbound on State Route 159 in Glen Carbon near a Bank of Edwardsville parking lot. At the same time, Lewis was allegedly waved by a third party to pull out of the bank parking lot. She proceeded into oncoming traffic and allegedly struck the front right corner of Ragan’s vehicle.
Ragan alleges Lewis failed to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision, drove at speeds greater than reasonable under the conditions and failed to yield the right of way.
Lewis answered the complaint on Sept. 19, 2014. She alleges that Ragan’s alleged damages were caused by her own negligence.
State Farm Insurance Company filed a motion to intervene in the case on Jan. 14 in order to protect their subrogation interest. The company provides insurance for the plaintiff.
State Farm stated that Ragan had received $3,964 for medical bills from the defendant’s insurance company, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, and $12,423 in property damages.
Ragan is also represented by Evans and Dixon in St. Louis.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 14-AR-371