5th District Publishes Rule 23 Order Upholding Trial Court’s Admission of Vehicle Photographs without Expert Opinion

Reed Armstrong attorney Dominique N. Seymoure recently argued before the 5th District Appellate Court in the case of Ellen Fronabarger v. Edith Burns(No. 5-07-0433). Following oral arguments, the 5th District issued a Rule 23 Order affirming the judgment of the trial court entered on the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $3,141.00 after a two-day jury trial. The Appellate Court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting after crash vehicle photographs absent expert testimony on the correlation between vehicular damage and the plaintiff’s injuries. It again rejected the notion that such photographs are always inadmissible or that expert testimony is always necessary, citing its decision in Jackson v. Sieb, 372 Ill. App. 3d 1061 (5th Dist., 2007)(in which Reed Armstrong also represented the defendant-appellee). The trial court has to determine whether the photographs make the resulting injury to the plaintiff more or less probable and whether the nature of the damage to the vehicles and the injury to the plaintiff are such that a lay person can readily assess their relationship, if any, without expert interpretation. The Court stated that in this case, it could not state that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the photographs without expert testimony. The jury could have assessed the relationship between the damage to the vehicles and the injury to the plaintiff without the aid of an expert.

On September 29, 2008, the Courtgranted defendant’s Motion to Publish the opinion which was urged on the basis that litigants and scholars continue to posit that expert testimony is required before photographs depicting vehicular damage are admissible citing the contrary position of the First District and distinguishing Jackson on its specific facts.