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Downing v. United Auto Racing Association

Illinois Appellate Court
570 N.E.2d 828 (1991)


Facts

Terry Downing (plaintiff) worked for a driver of a midget car as a pit crew member. The driver engaged in races against other drivers on a dirt oval course. A midget car is slightly larger than a go-cart that is encased in a cage-like frame. Prior to the start of a race, the wheels of a midget car warming up lost contact with the track surface, known as bicycling. The driver of the car lost control and the car flipped over and skidded toward Downing and other individuals near the pit area. The car struck Downing and pinned him against a fence causing him to sustain extensive injuries. Downing filed suit against United Auto Racing Association (UARA) (defendant) and Aaron Willis, doing business as Joliet Racing Association (defendant), in his capacity as promotor, organizer, and supervisor of the race. Downing claimed that Willis was required but failed to provide a safe, adequate, and properly-prepared track for the race, including personnel to supervise the track and pit area. Further, Downing claimed that defendants failed to order the midget car that struck him for bicycling removed from the track. Downing alleged the defendants failed to extend the guardrail near the pit area and to provide a pit steward to ensure that persons did not remain in the exposed area near the pit. Defendants argued that none of Downing’s suggested alternatives were reasonably necessary and none would have prevented his injuries. At trial, the defendants presented testimony that they had warned pit crew members, including Downing, to not stand in the area where Downing was struck by the car. The jury held for Downing and awarded him $1.5 million in damages, reduced to $615,000 for his comparative fault which was assessed at 59 percent. Defendants appealed. Downing cross-appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (McMorrow, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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