Illinois Supreme Court approves admission of post-accident automobile photos.
The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued an opinion in Peach vs. McGovern, 2019 IL 123156 on appeal from the Fifth District Appellate Court. The case involves significant issues concerning the appropriate standards for overruling jury verdicts, as well as issues concerning the admissibility of post-accident vehicle photographs in vehicle negligence cases. In Peach v. McGovern, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the Fifth District Appellate Court and reinstated the original defense verdict from the trial court in Marion County, finding that the trial court properly admitted post-accident vehicle photographs without expert testimony to explain the relationship of the vehicle damages to the plaintiff’s claimed injuries.  The Supreme Court held that post-accident vehicle photographs are generally admissible in an automobile negligence case without expert testimony, and in so doing the Court overruled the Appellate Court cases of Baraniak v. Kurby, 371 Ill. App. 3d 310 (1st Dist. 2007) and DiCosola v. Bowman, 342 Ill. App. 3d 530 (1st Dist. 2003). The Supreme Court reaffirmed that post-accident vehicle photos, like the testimony of witnesses describing an automobile accident, are relevant to the issues of proximate cause and injury. The Court determined that if a jury can consider relevant testimony about vehicle speed and impact forces, then it should be permitted to consider photographs that depict the damage, or lack thereof, done to the vehicles involved in the accident. The Court determined that elements of the accident such as vehicle speed, force of impact, and the existence or the extent of injuries do not necessarily require scientific or technical knowledge for a jury to understand and consider as evidence. Thus, juries may consider matters of common sense or everyday knowledge when assessing an accident. Further, the Supreme Court held that there was enough evidence to support the jury decision in favor of the defendant, and that the Fifth District improperly substituted its own judgment on issues of proximate cause and damages.  The Court found that jurors, through their own common sense and life experience are well equipped to weigh the evidence and reach conclusions about whether the auto accident did or did not cause injury.