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The personal injury lawyer for a South Carolina woman who fell during a shuttle van ride from O’Hare International Airport to a downtown Chicago hotel settled her personal injury lawsuit last week for $1.3 million in Cook County Circuit Court.

Eloise Witherspoon, 63, boarded a Go Airport Express shuttle van along with three co-workers on March 16, 2010 bound for the Wyndham Blake Hotel in downtown Chicago. The women were in town to attend a work conference.

All four women testified in court that the seat belts in the van did not work. While on the road the van driver suddenly stopped, ejecting Witherspoon from her seat and injuring her left knee, said G. Grant Dixon III, Witherspoon’s attorney.

As she was later departing the van, Dixon said that Witherspoon fell, causing her to suffer a serious fracture to her left leg. Witherspoon’s leg fracture did not heal for nearly three years and eventually her knee had to be replaced.

According to the LaGrange personal injury attorney, Witherspoon’s medical bills totaled $292,000.

Witherspoon contended that the driver was negligent by not ensuring that passengers in the van were securely belted and drove recklessly. She also sued the van company for failing to provide a safe van, and the driver for failing to help her exit the van safely.

The South Carolina woman consulted with several attorneys, including prominent Chicago law firms, and all of them turned her down, Dixon contended.

“Most lawyers looked at this case and saw what was wrong,” Dixon said in a press release. “We looked at it and saw a seriously injured woman who needed help and a van company that had done lots of things wrong.”

Witherspoon filed a lawsuit in March 2012 against Continental Airport Express in Cook County Circuit Court. In her complaint, she contended that the driver was negligent in not ensuring that passengers in the van were securely belted and drove recklessly. She also sued the shuttle service for failing to provide a safe van and the driver for not helping her exit the van safely.

Continental was represented by attorneys Joseph Wilson, of Maisel and Associates, and Manuel Sanchez of Sanchez, Daniels and Hoffman. During the brief trial, the defendant’s attorneys argued that Witherspoon had severe pre-existing arthritis and her total knee replacement years after the occurrence was not related.

Witherspoon was also morbidly obese and suffered from several other medical maladies of which the defendant’s attorneys claimed limited her damages.

The $1.3 million settlement was announced April 22 before Judge Thomas J. Lipscomb on the second day of Witherspoon’s civil trial. Travelers Insurance contributed $1.1 million and Colony Insurance contributed in excess of $200,000 to the damages.

Witherspoon was represented by Dixon of the Dixon Law Office in LaGrange, and his associate, Catherine D. Cavenagh.

“Several lawyers told our client she had no case,” Dixon said in a written statement. “Apparently, they were wrong.”