Ricky Taylor v. CTA and Otis Elevator
One winter's day Ricky Taylor and his little brother took a subway
to the Loop in Chicago, whence they entered upon the escalator that would take them up
onto State Street, that Great Street. Ricky's brother happened to be wearing a
scarf, and as he neared the top of the escalator it became caught in the toothed steps as
they rolled up and into the floor.
Ricky's brother was pulled inexorably to the floor because his neck
was caught in the scarf; it was wrapped around his neck in such a way that he couldn't
wriggle loose. Ricky, only eleven, struggled to free his brother from the
ever-tightening noose, but neither he nor anyone else could help. Ricky Taylor's
eight-year-old brother was strangled to death in a bizarre and gruesome way right before
his very eyes.
The estate of the deceased Taylor brother sued the CTA (Chicago
Transit Authority) and the manufacturer and maintainer of the escalator, and it collected
money at trial for wrongful death.
So far so good. Arguably a questionable verdict, which hinged
on the terms "reasonably foreseeable"and "unreasonably dangerous," but
that's neither here nor there here.
In any case, then the defendants were served with a new lawsuit, one
that named Ricky as the plaintiff -- Ricky, the one who had not been killed by the
The sole claim was that Ricky suffered emotional trauma as a result
of seeing his little brother slowly strangled to death. Significantly, Ricky did not
claim any bodily injury as a result of the escalator accident, only mental anguish.
Can Ricky Taylor collect? Not
according to Illinois common law, which holds that no defendant is liable to you merely
because he causes an accident that upset you or caused you fear. Otherwise pretty
much every single person who ever witnessed an accident would pretty much always bring a
claim against the defendant for mental anguish for having witnessed it. The only
winners would be whore psychiatrists and scumbag lawyers, and big-fat-lying claimants, so
that's why case law holds that you can't collect for merely witnessing someone else's
Now, case law does allow for an exception to that rule. If you
yourself were physically injured as a result of the incident, then you may also collect
for emotional anguish, the thinking being that if you were close enough to get hurt, no
matter how little you were hurt, you must have been close enough to have been in
reasonable fear -- fear for which you may expect to be compensated.
But Ricky Taylor admitted he suffered no physical injuries
whatsoever, so when he sued for mental anguish the CTA and my defendant, the elevator
company, took the obvious next step: They moved for dismissal on the grounds that, in
light of case law and plaintiff's admission in his Answers to Interrogatories that he
wasn't physically injured, the Complaint was defective prima facie ("at first
sight," or "on its face"). The motion to dismiss was granted by the
court of original jurisdiction, and plaintiff appealed.
Plaintiff's appeal argument was that because Ricky was the
deceased's brother -- not a mere stranger or even a close friend but rather his closest
kin -- he should be allowed to collect. Plaintiff argued that the closeness of the
relationship should override the common law that said you can't collect just for watching.
It turns out the appellate court agreed with Plaintiff, so our side
appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois and lost, at which point, right then and there,
case law was made. Now that's rare, and I felt privileged to be a teeny part of it.
Want to know what it cost my insurance company to go to the top of
the state appellate chain? The expenses were nearly $10,000.
Oh, wait, I left out a couple words. I meant to say that the
expenses for photocopying were $10,000.
Can you imagine what the entire claim cost both sides?
Not all Otis claims that went to suit were so
intense. Here's one that wasn't, although,
oddly, it dealt with that same common law rule.