Chicago not liable for escaped prisoner, crashed police car

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 4, 2011, 10:23am


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - The Illinois Supreme Court ruled last week that the City of Chicago was immune from liability after an escaping prisoner stole a police car, ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle, injuring two people.

The Court, in its 18-page opinion filed Feb. 25, said the appellate court correctly determined that the city was immune from liability in the incident pursuant to the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act.

The act immunizes local public entities and their employees from liability for injuries inflicted by escaping prisoners.

The plaintiffs in the case, Christopher Ries and Michael Martinez, were injured when Demario Lowe stole the police vehicle and proceeded to crash into their car.

Both Ries and Martinez sued Officer Sergio Oliva of the Chicago Police Department and the City of Chicago in Cook County Circuit Court.

The case ultimately went to the jury against the city only, and the jury entered a verdict for the plaintiffs.

However, an appellate court determined that the city was immune under the Tort Immunity Act and held that the circuit court should have entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the city.

The state's high court allowed the plaintiffs' petition for leave to appeal, and affirmed the appellate court's decision.

Justice Robert R. Thomas, who authored the Court's opinion, said the Court concluded the city was immune from liability because the plaintiffs' injuries were inflicted by an escaping prisoner.

The Tort Immunity Act also "contains no exception for willful and wanton misconduct," the Court said.

In addition, an exception in one section of the act "could not prevail over the absolute immunity provided" in the act itself, the Court concluded.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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