The case of a St. Clair County mother suing the father of her 4-year-old son and the driver of a vehicle that allegedly struck and killed him in 2014 is now back before the trial court in St. Clair County after an appeals court vacated a previous ruling.
On Feb. 22, the Fifth District Appellate Court of Illinois vacated and remanded Associate Judge Randall Kelley's ruling with orders to specify findings pertaining to a motion by one of the two defendants, Jessica Patton. Patton, who lives in Franklin County, has been trying for more than two years to get the case moved from St. Clair County to Franklin County, where the accident took place.
Melissa Yarber, acting as special administrator of the estate of Logan Steven Adams, filed suit Sept. 9, 2014, in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Patton and Brandon Adams. Her complaint maintains that the second plaintiff in the case, the boy’s father, Adams, was negligent in the death of Logan Adams while he was playing outside in the 500 block of North Van Buren Street in West Frankfort on June 29, 2014.
Yarber and Brandon Adams were never married but had two children together, including Logan Adams, who was one of a group of eight children, ages 4 to 11, outside at the time, according to court records.
"The decedent apparently crossed from west to east, and entered the path of Patton’s vehicle," the appellate court ruling said. "The front of her vehicle struck the child, causing a fatal injury."
The Franklin County Coroner pronounced Logan Adams dead at the scene, and his death was ruled accidental, according to the appellate court ruling.
Yarber is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, plus court costs.
In January 2015, Patton filed to have the case transferred to Franklin County, saying the incident occurred in Franklin County, all the evidence is in that county and that she and witnesses reside in Franklin County. In that same filing, Patton also claimed that supervising a minor child is a matter for the child's family and, thus, is barred by intra-family immunity.
After a hearing on the motion, Kelley denied on Sept. 30, 2015 the motion to move the case to Franklin County. Patton appealed, saying the court was wrong when it denied her motion and had violated the state's Code of Civil Procedure.
The Fifth District appellate court’s decision this past February sent the case back to St. Clair County Circuit Court.
Brandon Adams, who is homeless but generally lives in St. Clair County, is unemployed and does not pay child support for his surviving daughter with Yarber, according to court documents.
"Here the parents are not married," the appellate court decision said. "Adams therefore cannot share in any benefits which plaintiff might acquire as a result of her son’s death. It would appear therefore that the parental immunity doctrine is inapplicable in this situation, and that venue in St. Clair County is proper. Moreover, even defendant Patton places responsibility for the accident upon the shoulders of the adult who was supposed to be supervising the decedent at the time of the incident, namely Adams, thereby establishing that plaintiff joined Adams in good faith."