Illinois Law to Apply in Wrongful Death that Occurred in Wisconsin

Posted By Power Rogers & Smith, P.C. || 12-Apr-2012

On February 19, 2011, Ben Waring of Mathias Township, Michigan, was killed when two tires separated from a bus and struck his vehicle. The tragedy occurred in Racine, WI on Highway 20. At the time of the incident, Ben was driving in the westbound lane with his fiancé Jessica Shega-Fox following in her vehicle behind him.

The bus was traveling opposite Ben and Jessica in the eastbound lane of traffic. As the vehicles were passing each other, the driver’s side rear-tires separated from the bus. The first tire struck Ben’s vehicle while the second tire bounced in front of Jessica’s vehicle, narrowly missing her. The bus then crossed the center line of Highway 20 causing Jessica to maneuver her car to the shoulder to avoid hitting it.

The state police investigated the crash and determined that the lug-nuts were stripped and loose, which caused the tires to separate from the bus. The state police found the bus company to be at fault. According to applicable federal regulations, the bus company was required to perform an inspection before departing from Chicago on February 19, 2011.

The Plaintiffs are represented by Todd A. Smith and Sean M. Houlihan of Power, Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. of Chicago, Illinois. The suit asserts claims for wrongful death and survival on behalf of the Estate of Ben Waring. Specifically, the suit alleges that Rickey Raccoon Transportation, Inc. (“RRTI”), the company that owned the bus, and Darius Jones, the driver of the bus, negligently failed to maintain, service, and inspect the bus’s tires and wheel assembly at RRTI’s facilities in Chicago before departing for Wisconsin.

Additionally, a separate cause of action has been filed on behalf of Jessica Shega-Fox for negligent infliction of emotional distress for the emotional toll and post-traumatic stress she has suffered as a result of seeing her fiancé killed and being exposed to extreme danger at the time the tragedy occurred. Mr. Houlihan commented, “This tragedy was entirely preventable. If the driver and the bus company properly performed a simple, pre-trip inspection as required by Federal law, they would have fixed the loose lug-nuts and Ben would be with us today.”

Recently, Defendants filed a motion requesting that Wisconsin law be applied to the case instead of Illinois law. Defendants filed their motion in an attempt to take advantage of the damage caps imposed by Wisconsin law in order to dramatically reduce Plaintiff’s recovery, as Illinois does not impose such caps.

Defendants premised their motion on the fact the Decedent was a temporary resident of Wisconsin and the tragedy occurred in Wisconsin, despite the fact that the Defendants are both domiciled in Illinois and the negligent failure to maintain, service and inspect all occurred in Illinois. The court properly denied Defendants’ motion and held that the lawsuit will be governed by Illinois law.

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