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May 2, 2012
Motorcyclist awarded $2.9million for police car crash
®Volume 156, No. 198 Monday, October 11, 2010Motorcyclist awarded $2.9 million for police car crash By Maria Kantzavelos Place, when Chicago police officer Richard Under the state’s Tort Immunity Act, a Law Bulletin staff writer Austin pulled off the shoulder of the road- police officer attempting to enforce the law is A Cook County jury has returned a $3.3 way near 18th Street to take enforcement immune from liability based on negligence.million verdict against the City of Chicago action against another speeding vehicle, As a result, the standard at trial was whetherand in favor of a man who suffered a severe Hoffman said. the officer was willful and wanton — whethernerve injury 11 years ago when he was The officer was merging into southbound he was engaged in a course of conduct thatthrown from a motorcycle on Lake Shore traffic across two lanes, Hoffman said, when showed an utter indifference to, or consciousDrive in a collision with a Chicago police car. Ross struck the police car and was thrown disregard for, the safety of the plaintiff. The verdict, which was returned from the motorcycle, landing on the pave- Harrison said attorneys for the cityWednesday in a three-day retrial of the case, ment. He suffered a total brachial plexus argued that the officer used his emergencywas reduced by 10 percent to nearly $2.99 avulsion — an injury that affected the set of equipment, checked for traffic and that itmillion as a result of the jury’s finding of the nerves that control the hand, arm and shoul- seemed safe to merge at the time he pulledplaintiff’s comparative negligence. der. The injury left him with a “flail arm” out from the shoulder. He said the city also The motorcyclist, Brian Ross, suffered a with no prospect of successful treatment or argued that Ross, who testified that he hadtearing away of the nerves at the cervical recovery, Hoffman said. been traveling above the allowable speedregion of his spinal cord, which resulted in “I think that after 11 years, Brian Ross limit, drove up suddenly behind the policethe complete loss of motor function and sen- finally received the justice he had been wait- car and was at fault for the accident.sation in his left arm and hand. His case was ing for,” Hoffman said. “The city never once The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that thefirst filed in 1999 and was initially dismissed made an attempt to settle the case, and primary purpose of all police activity is pub-by a Cook County trial judge. The dismissal Brian never gave up the fight and he got the lic safety, and that before the officer left thewas reversed by the 1st District Appellate award that he deserved.” shoulder to take enforcement action againstCourt in 2003, and the case was refiled and Deputy Corporation Counsel Matthew A. the driver of the other speeding vehicle, hetried in May of this year, when it was Hurd and Assistant Corporation Counsel was required to make sure his entry into thedeclared a mistrial because that jury was Mark D. Harrison represented the city. roadway would not endanger oncomingdeadlocked. City attorneys have not made a final deci- motorists, Hoffman said. Kenneth A. Hoffman of Mitchell, sion on whether they will appeal the verdict, “It was simply a speeding violator, it wasHoffman & Wolf LLC represented the Harrison said late Friday afternoon. not a kidnapper or anything like that,”plaintiff along with co-counsel Steven W. In reaction to the verdict, Harrison said: Hoffman said. “We argued primarily that heJacobson of Jacobson & Sorkin Ltd. “We accept the jury’s decision, but we stand should’ve seen the motorist coming and if it On Sept. 7, 1999, Ross, a 29-year-old U.S. by our officer’s conduct. We believe that he was unsafe, you let the violator go.”Postal Service worker, was riding his motor- did not consciously disregard the safety of Cook County Circuit Judge Donald J.cycle home from downtown, traveling south others, because that would have put himself Suriano presided over the trial. The case ison Lake Shore Drive near McCormick at risk also.” Ross v. City of Chicago, 07 L 8609. Copyright © 2010 Law Bulletin Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Law Bulletin Publishing Company.