Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Police Pursuit That Resulted in Two Deaths

On April 10, 2014, two Chicago police officers noticed a car without a front license plate, and they attempted to pull it over. The vehicle, which was being driven by Glenn Jones, was owned by Dalia Smith who was a passenger in the car.

As the Chicago police officers attempted to curb the vehicle, Jones suddenly accelerated, driving up to 70 mph down a two-lane street with a 30-mph speed limit. The car he was driving ran through stop signs and a red light.

The police officers followed for four blocks at speeds up to 55 mph before disengaging. However, as the police officers were stopping, the Jones vehicle struck another car containing Kelly Winston and her daughters, Kayla and Kyla. Video of the crash showed that the entire incident, from the police attempting to curb the Jones vehicle to the time of the collision, lasted only about 20 seconds. Jones and Smith were both killed in the crash.

The Winstons filed a lawsuit against the Estate of Jones and Smith, as well as the City of Chicago, and the two police officers.

The City and the police officers moved for summary judgment arguing that the officers were not the proximate cause of the crash or were not willful and wanton in their actions.

The Cook County circuit court judge granted summary judgment, finding that “[t]he facts here do not evince a reckless pursuit by the police officers . . . [t]here is nothing in the record which raises a question of fact as to the police officers’ recklessness.”

The Circuit Court judge also found that the Winstons had “failed to show proximate cause as a matter of law.” With the entry of that summary judgment order, the Winstons appealed.

On appeal, the Winstons emphasized that the police officers violated the police pursuit policies by engaging a pursuit.

The Illinois Appellate Court emphasized that this was not determinative of recklessness, but that police pursuit policies may be considered “as evidence of foreseeability causation purposes” and “as evidence to be considered in determining whether willful and wanton conduct has been shown.”

The appellate court found that the violation of pursuit policy was “another weight on the scale against summary judgment[.]”

The Illinois Appellate Court noted that the facts of the instant lawsuit were not disputed, but certain essential interpretations – such as whether Jones was fleeing from the officers’ pursuit or from the original stop — remained unclear.

The appellate court concluded that, taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the Winstons, summary judgment for the City and the police officers was inappropriate. The Illinois Appellate Court found evidence that the collision was a reasonably foreseeable result of giving chase to Jones, and that nothing in the police pursuit itself demonstrates that such a result is foreseen. The appellate court also ruled that “proximate cause is a matter of foreseeability.”

The Illinois Appellate Court, therefore, reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Kelly Winston v. City of Chicago, et al., 2019 IL App (1st) 181419 (Aug.16, 2019).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling wrongful death lawsuits, truck crash cases, intersection collision lawsuits, automobile accident cases, motorcycle accident cases and bicycle accident lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Calumet City, Deerfield, Arlington Heights, Inverness, Long Grove, Waukegan, Wheaton, Hinsdale, Aurora, Geneva, Tinley Park, Chicago (North Lawndale, Pilsen, Little Italy, Hegewisch, East Side, South Shore, Bronzeville, South Loop, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Albany Park, Uptown), Flossmoor, Olympia Fields, Dolton, Blue Island and South Holland, Ill.

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