Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

St. Clair County jury awards passenger more than $180K


By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Dec 27, 2018

A St. Clair County jury awarded a passenger $182,540.08 in a suit that at one time asserted claims involving three separate St. Clair County collisions.

The two-day trial ended Dec. 18 in Circuit Judge Chris Kolker’s courtroom. Jurors awarded plaintiff Marcia Phillips $80,040.08 for past medical expenses, $42,500 for future medical expenses, $40,000 for pain and suffering, $7,500 for future pain and suffering, $7,500 for loss of a normal life and $5,000 for future loss of a normal life.

Phillips was represented at trial by Thomas Rich, Kristina Cooksey and Michelle Rich of Rich, Rich & Cooksey PC in Fairview Heights.


Defendant Jane Gale was represented at trial by Michael Schroer and Justin Zimmerman of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP in Edwardsville.

According to an amended trial memorandum filed Dec. 14, Phillips was a passenger in a vehicle operated by Gale on June 30, 2016, when the defendant allegedly struck the rear of another vehicle. The court found Gale was negligent and her negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Gale denies that Phillips was injured to the extent claimed and denies the amount of damages claimed by the plaintiff.

Phillips’ original complaint was filed against Michael Gorka on May 20, 2014, and stemmed from a 2013 collision. Over the course of more than four years, Phillips amended her complaint twice to include two additional collisions. At the time of the trial, the only claims that remained pending were against Gale.

In her original 2014 complaint, Phillips alleged she was driving a vehicle northbound on North Illinois at its intersection with East C. Street in Belleville on July 25, 2013. Phillips alleged Gorka was operating a vehicle at the same location when he rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle.

On Aug. 14, 2015, Phillips filed an amended complaint against Gorka, Danielle Osborn and Harmony Emge School District 175.

The allegations against Gorka remained the same, but the allegations against Osborn involved a separate collision. Phillips alleged she was driving a vehicle southeast on Foley Drive in Belleville on April 24, 2015, when Osborn allegedly struck the side of the plaintiff’s vehicle. Phillips alleged she was in the course and scope of her employment with Harmony EMGE when the collision occurred.

Phillips petitioned for discovery against Harmony EMGE, alleging it owned, operated and maintained a video recording of the crash, presumably taken by a dashboard camera.

Osborn answered the complaint on Nov. 20, 2015, arguing that any alleged injuries were caused by Phillips’ own negligence.

On March 16, 2016, Gorka was dismissed with prejudice from the suit after the parties reached a settlement.

Then Harmony EMGE was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice in April 2016.

On May 12, 2016, Osborn filed a motion to consolidate Phillips’ claims with two arbitration cases (15-AR-1075 and 16-AR-107), which allege injuries from the same April 24, 2014, collision.

Phillips objected to the motion to consolidate, arguing that consolidation would not serve judicial economy and could result in prejudice.

“While the claims do stem from the motor vehicle collision, the plaintiffs in these claims share no similarities in the nature and extent of injury. It would be unduly burdensome for all parties to have the entire matter consolidated, given the difference in the course and length of medical care,” the opposition stated.

Madison County Circuit Judge Heinz Rudolf granted consolidation in part on June 9, 2015. Rudolf was an associate judge at the time the order was entered.

The cases were only consolidated with respect to Osborn’s discovery deposition. All other portions of the motion to consolidate were denied.

Phillips filed a second amended complaint on Feb. 21, 2017, against Gorka, Osborn, Harmony EMGE School District 175 and Gale.

The allegations against Gorka, who had been previously dismissed following a settlement, remained the same. The allegations against Osborn and Harmony EMGE also remained the same.

The allegations against Gale state that Phillips was a passenger in a vehicle operated by the defendant. They were traveling northbound on South Green Mount Road in Belleville on June 30, 2016, when the defendant allegedly rear-ended another vehicle.

Phillips voluntarily dismissed Gorka and Harmony EMGE on April 21, 2017.

Gale answered the complaint on April 24, 2017, arguing that Phillips’ injuries were caused by third persons over which the defendant had no control.

On Nov. 14, 2018, Osborn was dismissed with prejudice, leaving Gale the only remaining defendant.

Phillips filed a motion for partial summary judgment and for sanctions on Nov. 20. She argued that Gale denied liability. However, during her deposition, Gale allegedly testified that they were on Green Mount Road while it was raining “slightly.” Gale testified that when a truck was stopped in front of her, she hit the brakes “and I think I slid into him and I hit his truck.”

“Defendant agrees that the crash was her fault, it caused injury to the plaintiff, and she agrees that plaintiff did nothing wrong to cause or contribute to the crash,” the motion stated.

Phillips also argued she was entitled to sanctions because the defendant’s pleadings caused unnecessary delay and “needlessly increased the costs of litigation.”

“As a result of defendant’s frivolous pleadings, defendant’s pleadings should be stricken, and this case should proceed on a damages-only trial,” the motion stated.

Gale filed an opposition on Dec. 10, arguing that she had a good faith basis to deny negligence at the time her answer was filed.

“For example, plaintiff Marcia Phillips informed a medial treater the day after the accident that the accident was caused in part by another vehicle short stopping in front of defendant’s vehicle,” the opposition stated.

“Additionally, defendant’s affirmative defenses were proper at the time they were filed as plaintiff was improperly attempting to file three separate and distinct lawsuits into one,” it continued.

Gale argued that her deposition would have likely been taken regardless because she is Phillips’ friend and drove her to some of the medical treatment at issue.

Osborn had been represented by Freeark Harvey & Mendillo PC in Belleville.

Gorka had been represented by Boggs Avellino Lach & Boggs LLC.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-339

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Organizations in this Story

Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith Rich, Rich & Cooksey PC

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