Drews v. Mason

Citation172 N.E.2d 383,29 Ill.App.2d 269
Decision Date21 February 1961
Docket NumberGen. No. 10323
PartiesMarion F. DREWS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Helen L. MASON, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Page 383

172 N.E.2d 383
29 Ill.App.2d 269
Marion F. DREWS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Helen L. MASON, Defendant-Appellee.
Gen. No. 10323.
Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District.
Feb. 21, 1961.

[29 Ill.App.2d 271]

Page 384

Unger, Litak & Groppi, Danville, for appellant.

Sebat, Swanson, Banks & Jones, Danville, Ralph J. Swanson, Danville, of counsel, for appellee.

REYNOLDS, Justice.

Plaintiff slipped or stumbled over a wooden clothes pole or rod lying on the floor of her daughter's house, and broke the bones in her right wrist. She filed suit against her daughter for personal injuries claiming negligence. The cause was tried before a jury and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $1,500. This verdict was set aside and judgment notwithstanding the verdict entered for the defendant, the trial court holding in a memorandum opinion that the plaintiff was a licensee and not an invitee, and that the defendant could only be liable for concealed traps or wilful force or wanton intentional or reckless action. From that judgment the plaintiff appeals.

Prior to the date the plaintiff was injured, the mother and daughter lived three doors apart in Danville, Illinois. The home of the daughter, Helen L. Mason, was severely damaged by fire on October 27, 1958, the fire not only damaging the home, but also the contents. The daughter and her husband, Albert Mason, after the fire, went to live temporarily with the mother, Marion F. Drews, and were living there the day of the accident. After the fire, and after most [29 Ill.App.2d 272] of the fire damaged debris in the Mason home had been taken out, the Masons were re-decorating their home with the help of the plaintiff, Medford E. Williams, the husband of another daughter of the plaintiff, Robert Drews, a son of the plaintiff and brother of the defendant, other relatives and neighbors. On the day plaintiff was injured, November 2, 1958, the family had had breakfast at the Drews home and Albert Mason and Helen L. Mason had left to go to their home to continue repairing and clearing up the fire damage. As the daughter left the Drews home, she said to her mother, the plaintiff, 'I suppose you'll be down a little later, won't you, Mother?'

Page 385

and the plaintiff replied, 'Yes, I'll be down after I do a few chores at home here.' The defendant Helen L. Mason left the Drews home at about 8:30 a.m. The plaintiff went to the Mason home at about 10:15 a.m. and walked into the bedroom where Mr. Mason, Mrs. Mason, Robert Drews and Mr. Williams were working. Mrs. Mason was washing a round wooded clothes pole, and upon being asked by her husband to get them some coffee, left for the Drews home to make coffee, leaving Mrs. Drews, Mr. Mason, Robert Drews and Mr. Williams in the Mason home. Mrs. Mason has no definite recollection as to what she did with the clothes pole she was washing, but testified she didn't think she leaned it against the wall, but probably dropped it right there where she was washing it. After Mrs. Mason had left, Mrs. Drews stepped on or stumbled on the pole, fell and injured her wrist.

When Mrs. Drews appeared at the Mason home that morning, she was dressed in an old house dress, flat heeled shoes and a short top coat. From the date of the fire to the date of the injury, Mrs. Drews had been at the Mason home almost constantly, helping them to throw out articles not worth saving, [29 Ill.App.2d 273] washing walls and scrubbing floors. The Masons testified that it was not a matter of asking Mrs. Drews to do something, but that she would see something that needed to be done and do it. Both Albert Mason and his wife Helen L. Mason testified that at no time had they directly requested the plaintiff to work at the defendant's house.

The original complaint claimed the plaintiff was an invited guest, but this was amended to an invited 'person'. During the trial, Albert Mason the son-in-law of the plaintiff, named as defendant, was dismissed from the case, and the verdict of the jury was for the plaintiff against her daughter Helen L. Mason. The injuries to the plaintiff were not disputed and no question on the pleadings is raised in the appeal, except as to the posttrial motion for a new trial and that will be discussed later in this opinion. The issue before this court on the appeal is the status of the plaintiff at the time of her injury. If she was a licensee or a guest, the defendant would only be liable for wilful and wanton negligence. If she was an invitee, then the defendant would be liable for ordinary negligence. The trial court by its judgment notwithstanding the verdict held her status as that of a licenses or guest. The plaintiff in her appeal contends her status was a question of fact for the jury.

The law is well settled that a trial court has no right to direct a verdict, or to enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, if there is any evidence, together with all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom, which would justify submission of the case to the jury. Friesland v. City of Litchfield, 24 Ill.App.2d 390, 395, 164 N.E.2d 606; Pantlen v. Gottschalk, 21 Ill.App.2d 163, 174, 157 N.E.2d 548; Wills v. Paul, 24 Ill.App.2d 417, 420, 164 N.E.2d 631. Even where the facts are admitted or undisputed but [29 Ill.App.2d 274] where a difference of opinion as to the inference that may legitimately be drawn from them exists, it is primarily for the jury to draw the inference. Denny v. Goldblatt Bros., Inc., 298 Ill.App. 325, 18 N.E.2d 555; Pantlen v. Gottschalk, 21 Ill.App.2d 163, 174, 157 N.E.2d 548. And a verdict may not be set aside merely because the jury could have drawn different inferences or because judges may feel, if they did, that other conclusions than the one drawn by the jury would be more reasonable. Lindroth v. Walgreen Co., 407 Ill. 121, 94 N.E.2d 847; Cloudman v. Beffa, 7 Ill.App.2d 276, 284, 129 N.E.2d 286. While each of the cases cited present different questions, they all coincide in the rule that the trial court has no right to enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict of the jury, except upon uncontradicted evidence of facts consistent...

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