Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Appellate court reverses St. Clair County auto accident verdict in favor of defendant

By Ann Maher | Sep 6, 2016

The Fifth District Appellate Court has reversed the judgment of a St. Clair County jury and ordered a new trial for an auto mechanic injured in a rear-end accident in 2013.

Plaintiff Larry Claro, who claims to have suffered a herniated disc due to the accident, had appealed a general verdict arrived at in Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot's court in favor of defendant Shirley Ann DeLong.

The issues on appeal were whether the verdict in favor of DeLong was against the manifest weight of the evidence and whether Claro was entitled to a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

According to the opinion published Aug. 31, Claro's treating chiropractor and orthopedic surgeon both testified there was a causal connection between the accident and his injuries. The surgeon had recommended that if steroid injections did not continue to work, Claro would need disc replacement surgery, estimated to cost $60,000.

At trial, Claro testified that DeLong struck his Honda Accord stopped at a light while she was traveling in a Dodge Durango at 15-20 miles per hour.

DeLong testified that she was stopped behind Claro for five or six seconds when her brake released "like there was air in the line or something," causing her vehicle to roll into Claro's with very little damage.

The jury received the plaintiff's verdict form and defendant's general verdict form, and following deliberations, sided with DeLong.

Claro, represented by Michelle Rich, Kristina Cooksey and Thomas Rich of Fairview Heights, moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Lopinot denied the motion.

On appeal, Claro argued that the jury verdict went against the manifest weight of the evidence. His attorneys argued that DeLong had admitted liability and that Claro had provided uncontroverted evidence linking his injuries to the accident.

Justice Richard Goldenhersh wrote the opinion. Justices Gene Schwarm and Bruce Stewart concurred.

"[W]e fail to see how a reasonable inference could be drawn from the evidence presented that plaintiff did not actually suffer any injuries or damages due to defendant's negligence," Goldenhersh wrote.

A new trial was ordered on the issue of damages only.

DeLong was represented by Daniel Bradley abd Darrell Flesner of DeFranco and Bradley in Fairview Heights.

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