Illinois Appellate Court Upholds $26M Judgment Against Cab Company

taxi cabsAchieving the result you need in a personal injury case is about more than just proving that you were hurt and that it was a foreseeable result of a negligent or intentional act or omission on someone else’s part. In many cases, it is about pursuing (and obtaining a judgment against) the right defendant. Win against a driver who makes $10 per hour for an auto accident that caused you to suffer $5 million in damages, and you may end up with an uncollectable judgment. Obtain a verdict against the driver and the corporate employer for which he was performing an errand when he hit you, and you may have a greater chance of achieving a more meaningful recovery.

One case in which this truth was on display was a matter recently decided by the Illinois Appellate Court. The victim was a lawyer who had hailed a cab to take him from a business meeting in Chicago to his home in the southwest suburbs. As the cab approached the Hinsdale exit off Interstate 294, the cab driver took the cloverleaf ramp, which had a posted speed limit of 25 mph, at speeds in excess of twice that. The driver lost control, and the minivan slipped off the ramp, then went airborne for 32 feet, and finally slammed into a retaining wall, at which point it was still going more than 40 mph upon impact.

The lawyer’s injuries were massive. At one point, the lawyer’s doctors gave him a coma score of 3, which is the lowest score one can get while still alive. He lost a full five weeks from his memory.

The cab involved in the accident was owned by the brother of the driver and the brother’s corporation. That small corporation, however, was an affiliate of a major cab company. Indeed, the minivan did not identify itself as a cab belonging to the brother’s corporation, but it was painted in the cab company’s bright yellow color scheme and marked with the cab company’s logo.

When the lawyer and his wife sued, it was very important that they obtain a judgment against the right defendant. Given the large amount of harm they’d suffered (the jury set the husband’s damages at roughly $22 million and the wife’s at nearly $4 million), a judgment against the cab driver, his brother, and the brother’s corporation might not have adequately helped the couple. The lawyer’s legal team persuaded the trial court, however, that the much larger cab company was liable too.

The cab company appealed, but it lost. On appeal, the cab company continued to argue that the cabbie was an independent driver, but the appeals court upheld the trial court’s decision that the cab company was liable based upon the theory of “apparent agency.” Apparent agency means that one entity’s conduct, if it creates the appearance that another party is authorized to conduct business on its behalf, can potentially make it liable.

That, the courts decided, was what happened here. The cab company demanded that this cab bear its distinctive color scheme and logo. The presence of that color scheme and logo was enough to give the appearance that the cab driver was an authorized agent of the cab company and for customers, like this lawyer, “justifiably to rely upon the care or skill of such apparent agent.” This appearance, as well as the cab company’s conduct in creating this appearance, was enough to create an agency relationship and make the cab company liable for the damages suffered by this lawyer and his wife.

If you’re injured in a vehicle crash, there are many essential components in seeking the compensation to which you may be entitled. You need a legal team with the knowledge and resources to handle all of the needs of your case. Consult the experienced Chicago car accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck. Our team has been helping injured people for many years with seeking the outcomes they deserve. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Woman Hit By Champaign City Bus Obtains $9M Injury Verdict Award, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, March 15, 2017

What Happens When You’re Injured by a Lyft or Uber Driver in Illinois?, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Jan. 12, 2017