Summary of Imig v. Beck, S. Ct Illinois, 1986
Relevant Facts: The Pl, Imig’s, were traveling west on Hwy 136, when a towed vehicle behind a wrecker collided with them around 10 p.m. An Illinois Trooper testified that the wrecker’s stabilizer bar was missing either a bolt or pin. An investigator found a 10 in. Hitch pin on the shoulder 100 ft east of the accident. The Beck’s testified that they stopped a mile earlier and checked the equipment, and everything was alright. The owner of the wrecker stated that the missing pin wasn’t necessary b/c the bar was welded.
Legal Issue(s): Whether jury was free to dispense with res ipsa loquitur and reject the inference of negligence?
Court’s Holding: Yes
Procedure: Trial ct. found for the DF. PL appealed denial of NOV. App. Ct. Reversed. Reversed.
Law or Rule(s): R. I. L. – 1) the agency or instrumentality causing injury or damage was, at the time of the creation of the condition causing injury or damage, under the management or control of the party charged with negligence, AND 2) the accident occurred under such circumstances that in the ordinary course of events it would not have occurred if the party so charged had used proper care while agency or instrumentality was under management or control.
Court Rationale: Res ipsa loquitur does not relieve a Pl of the burden of proving negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. There was no direct evidence as to why or how the towed car and Pl’s van collided. The prima facie proof in this case is not so convincing that the inference of the Df’s negligence is inescapable. The Dfs had no burden to prove how the accident happened, they did show that their acts and conduct amounted to reasonable care. Res ipsa loquitur permits the drawing of an inference of circumstantial evidence, it does not create a presumption of negligence. The jury was permitted, not compelled, to draw an inference of negligence and weigh the evidence. The jury struck a balance in favor of the defendants.
Plaintiff’s Argument: The evidence offered by the Df did not negate the inference of negligence, and that inference of negligence is so strong that all of the evidence favors the PL contrary to the jury’s verdict.
Defendant’s Argument: The wrecker was properly equipped to tow a vehicle, it passed a safety inspection, the towed vehicle was properly attached, df were not negligent.