St. Clair County associate judge Chris Kolker denied dismissal in a suit alleging a man died in a fatal collision when he went to the aid of another disabled vehicle while waiting on the side of the highway after his rental car ran out of gas.
Enterprise Leasing Company of STL and Stetson Myers filed a motion to dismiss the suit on Aug. 8 through attorneys John Cunningham and Denise Baker-Seal of Brown & James PC in Belleville.
They allege decedent Mark Morris and Myers went to the aid of driver Ricki Turner when his vehicle became disabled in the middle of the lanes of traffic on I-55, past where Morris’ rental car was on the side of the road. Myers, an Enterprise employee, was also in the rental car when it ran out of gas.
Morris and Myers were unable to move the disabled vehicle, and Myers returned to the safety of the shoulder of the road.
Morris remained standing in the lane of traffic in front of the disabled vehicle when he was struck by another car driven by Dewayne Nichol.
“In this case, it is clear that plaintiff cannot sustain a cause of action because the alleged negligence of defendants – running out of gas – had nothing to do with the death of Morris, apart from the happenstance that they pulled to the side of the road in the vicinity of where Turner’s vehicle would later break down,” the motion states. “Defendants could not reasonably have anticipated Morris’s decision to walk into the highway as a result of running out of gas.”
The defendants argue that the rental car running out of gas and pulling to the side of the road were conditions of injury, not causes. They add that they could not foresee that Morris would walk onto the highway to assist a disabled vehicle.
“Running out of gas is not inherently dangerous, and while he was safely on the side of the road, Morris was not endangered. When he ventured into the roadway of his own volition, Enterprise and Myers had no continuing duty to keep Morris safe.
“To argue that Enterprise was responsible for Morris’ safety after he left the rental car and voluntarily went to the assistance of Turner is a strenuous and overreaching attempt to connect two unconnected events,” the motion states.
Kolker denied the motion to dismiss on Sept. 11. He set a case management conference for Dec. 4 at 9 a.m.
Pamela Fox filed the complaint on behalf of Morris on May 10, alleging the decedent was traveling in the rental car on May 12, 2015, when it ran out of gas.
Fox alleges Morris was struck by a Chevrolet Tahoe driven by Nichol, which allegedly carried him approximately 137 feet before coming to a stop. Morris was taken to the Gateway Regional Medical Center but died that evening.
The plaintiff is represented by Colleen C. Jones of Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer and Shevlin LTD in Belleville.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 17-L-232