A Madison County jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant Jennifer Pitts in a collision suit where both parties claimed they had a green light.
Jurors deliberated for roughly 40 minutes before reaching a defense verdict around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 in Associate Judge Thomas Chapman’s courtroom. The trial began Oct. 1.
“The Madison County jurors are smart. They listen carefully to the evidence, and they are an example of the jury system working right,” said defense attorney Stephen Mudge of Reed Armstrong Mudge & Morrissey PC in Edwardsville.
Plaintiff attorney Gary Growe of Growe Eisen Karlen Eilerts in Clayton asked jurors to award plaintiff Patsy Troxell between $345,000 and $425,000. Roughly $191,000 of that judgment request was for medical bills.
The case had been previously assigned to Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder. It was reassigned to Chapman on Sept. 27. Crowder is retiring from the bench in December.
Mudge said Chapman “was very fair” and made rulings that were “straight down the middle,” favoring neither side.
Troxell filed her complaint July 6, 2016, alleging she was traveling eastbound on Illinois Route 143 on Sept. 24, 2015. She claimed she was approaching the intersection of South Moreland Road and attempted to turn left when her vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by Pitts.
Troxell alleged Pitts violated the traffic signal, failed to keep a careful lookout and failed to yield the right-of-way.
As a result, Troxell alleged she suffered fractured ribs, pulmonary contusion, abdominal traumatic injuries and injuries to her upper extremities.
In her affirmative defenses, Pitts denied liability and argued that the plaintiff failed to obey a traffic signal, ran a red light, failed to keep a proper lookout for other vehicles, failed to keep her vehicle in a proper lane of traffic and failed to keep her vehicle under proper control.
“Both sides were adamant they had a green light,” Mudge said.
He added that both Troxell and Pitts had witnesses testify that they had a green light.
During the trial, Mudge called expert witness David Brammeier, a transportation engineer with CBB Transportation Engineers + Planners in St. Louis.
Brammeier conducted a light sequence analysis on a fully actuated intersection, which means the intersection is not on a timer. Instead, lights are triggered by traffic demands from all directions.
Mudge said Brammeier used witness statements to pin point where each witness was during the crash. He was then able to determine who would have had the green light based on the witness’ scenarios.
“He concluded we had the green light,” Mudge said.
Mudge added that Brammeier used Troxell’s own witness to prove that she couldn’t have had the green light, even though the witness testified that the plaintiff had the green light.
“Her witness described a light sequence that turned out to be very significant to our analysis,” Mudge said.
Mudge said it is possible that the plaintiff stopped past the white line, causing the mechanism controlling the light to “forget” she was there. When motorists stop beyond the white line, it is called an unlocking white line.
Growe said there was some question whether Pitts was trying to place a call on her cell phone at the time of the collision. he said the crash was reported at 11:50 and call records show a call was made at 11:47.
Mudge said the evidence shows that the defendant didn’t make the phone call until after the collision when she called to report the crash.
Growe also said Troxell suffered from a number of medical and health-related problems and had been on pain medication.
"I think the jury took that into consideration," he said.
He added that Troxell's son, who was in the car with her at the time of the crash, backed up what his mother said. However, he said the plaintiff's son also had some health issues that may have impacted the credibility of his testimony.
"We were disappointed," Growe said. "Obviously it was a credibility case. We were disappointed that they didn't believe Mrs. Troxell or her son, but it was a toss-up."
Madison County Circuit Court case number 16-L-952