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ARTICLE ID 28870

$________ GROSS INCLUDING $________ LOSS OF CONSORTIUM - 20% COMPARATIVE FAULT REDUCES TO TOTAL NET FIGURE OF $________ - PLAINTIFF SUFFERS TRAUMATIC BELOW-THE-KNEE AMPUTATION WHILE SWIMMING IN HARBOR THROUGH WHICH COMMERCIAL VESSELS PASS - FEMALE PLAINTIFF STRUCK BY COMMERCIAL BOAT WHICH WAS ALLEGEDLY OPERATING TOO CLOSE TO SHORE - PLAINTIFF CLAIMS THAT SHE WAS SWIMMING WITHIN ________ FEET OF THE SHORELINE.

Cook County, Illinois

The female plaintiff brought this action against the owner of a commercial vessel which ran over her as she was swimming at the Oak Street Beach in Chicago, Illinois. The plaintiff, in her mid- 30’s at the time of the accident, contended that she was swimming within ________ feet of the shoreline when the operator of the defendant’s vessel maneuvered the boat too close to the shoreline p 7 3 and inadvertently ran her over, traumatically severing her foot from her ankle. The plaintiff additionally alleged that the defendant vessel owner failed to properly train its crew and that the vessel operator negligently failed to make proper observations, allowing the vessel to be operated too close to shore and overtaking and striking the plaintiff.

The subject accident occurred on October 12, ________, almost six weeks after the swimming season had ended and only three days before the end of harbor season in Chicago. The beaches were closed to the public at the time, although swimming was allowed for adults (18 years of age or older). The plaintiff was accompanied to the beach by her husband and several friends, all of whom testified that the plaintiff was swimming within ________ feet of the shoreline when overtaken by the boat.

The captain of the boat, a physician who helped rescue her, as well as the police officer who recovered her foot, placed her, or her foot, at a distance greater than ________ feet from shore. The police officer testified that he measured the distance from the beach to where he found the foot the following day. The police officer was impeached by a prior statement regarding measurement of the plaintiff’s distance from the shoreline. The prior statement was made by the officer in an interview given shortly after recovering the foot.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant’s vessel was traveling too close to shore at the time it overtook the plaintiff and that the defendant’s captain and crew failed to keep a proper lookout.

The plaintiff additionally maintained that the defendant vessel owner negligently failed to properly train its captains in the rules of the U.S. Coast Guard as well as its own rules. The plaintiff offered evidence that commercial vessels traveling through these waters rarely travel as close to the shoreline as the defendant’s vessels did on a regular basis. The plaintiff obtained evidence in discovery which established that the vessel crew was specifically instructed in training to operate the vessel as close to shore as possible for advertising purposes.

The defendant’s company logo, "Seadog Ventures," was painted in large letters across the side of the vessel.

The defendant noted that the swimming season was over when the plaintiff’s accident occurred and that the Chicago beaches were closed. Specifically, the defendant cited a Chicago Park District rule prohibiting swimming over 50 yards off shore at all times and prohibiting all swimming after Labor Day. Additionally, the evidence established that the water temperature was 60 degrees with three to five foot waves and a small craft advisory issued at the time. The defense argued that under these circumstances, the vessel operator and crew could not reasonably have foreseen that there would be a swimmer in the water fifty yards from shore. The defense, therefore, maintained that the plaintiff was overwhelmingly comparatively negligent in entering the water and swimming so far out from shore, committing several violations of park rules and public ordinances. The facts were clearly in dispute as to the plaintiff’s distance from the shore when she was hit by the defendant’s vessel.

The defendant further contended that the Chicago Park District and the company hired to manage the park were negligent in p 7 3 failing to ensure that buoys were properly placed in the water so that the areas beyond which swimmers were not allowed and the areas beyond which commercial vessels were not permitted to venture were clearly and easily discernible. On the issue of damages, the plaintiff’s evidence included testimony from the plaintiff herself, her husband and several physicians. The plaintiff’s foot was traumatically severed when she was struck by the defendant’s vessel’s propeller. The plaintiff was rushed to a nearby hospital and underwent emergency treatment. Although her foot was recovered, the nature of the injury was such that it could not be reattached. Several surgical procedures were performed and the plaintiff ultimately required further amputation of the limb below the knee.

The plaintiff, who was very physically active prior to the subject accident, fought hard to rehabilitate herself in an effort to regain as much normal function as possible. She has been fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthesis which has allowed her to remain physically active and engage in many of the sports she had previously enjoyed, albeit on a limited basis.

Prior to trial, the defendants tendered a settlement offer of $________, which was refused by the plaintiff. During jury selection, the defendants raised their offer to $________. After opening statements and the completion of the testimony of three witnesses, the defendants increased their settlement offer to $________. This was the figure the Trial Judge recommended to settle the case. The plaintiffs’ last demand was $________.

The jury returned a verdict against the defendant vessel owner in the amount of $________ for the plaintiff and $________ for the plaintiff’s husband for his loss of consortium. The total verdict was reduced by 20% in accordance with the jury’s finding of comparative fault on the part of the plaintiff.

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