Lexis Document of the Week: Complaint Underlying $2.4 Million Verdict For Transit Train Operator In Action Against City Of Chicago For Injuries Sustained When Police Car Collided With Train

Posted on 11-17-2016 by
Tags: litigation

On Aug. 10, 2012, Jeffrey Bryant was operating a Chicago Transit Authority train, approaching the Kedzie Brown Line station, in the City of Chicago, IL. The safety grade crossing was activated at the track intersection with North Kedzie Avenue, lights were flashing, bells were ringing, and gates were in a lowered position, so as to prohibit drivers from crossing the train tracks. At that same time, Chicago Police Department Officer Charlotte Gonzalez was driving a city police car in pursuit of an individual suspected of riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. Gonzalez accelerated her department vehicle around the lowered safety gate, past the flashing red lights, without regard to the ringing bells, and onto the train tracks as the train operated by Bryant was approaching. The train collided with the police cruiser. Bryant subsequently alleged that he was seriously injured in the collision.

On Aug. 9, 2013, Bryant filed a negligence action against the City of Chicago in the Circuit Court for Cook County, IL. Bryant alleged that Gonzalez had been acting willfully and wantonly, that she violated 625 ILCS 5/11-1201(a) when she crossed the railroad tracks, and that she had also violated the policies of the Chicago police department.

Prior to trial, Bryant demanded $ 950,000.00 to settle the dispute. The City offered $ 100,000.00, but later withdrew the offer. The matter proceeded to a jury trial that was presided over by Judge Diane Shelley. On Nov. 4, 2016, the jury returned a verdict in Bryant's favor, awarding him a total of 2,480,547.00.

Bryant was represented by Matt Belcher and Bryant Greening of Aleksy Belcher in Chicago, IL. The City of Chicago was represented by City Counsel Margaret Schneider.

Lexis Advance Subscribers may view the complete summary here: Jeffery Bryant v. City of Chicago; 2016 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 8556

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FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT AT LAW
COUNT I
WILLFUL AND WANTON CONDUCT
NOW COMES the Plaintiff, JEFFERY BRYANT, by and through his attorneys, ALEKSY BELCHER, and in complaining of the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO, states as follows:
1. On August 10, 2012, the Plaintiff, JEFFERY BRYANT, was operating a Chicago Transit Authority train, approaching the Kedzie Brown Line station, in the City of Chicago, County of Cook, and State of Illinois.
2. The Kedzie Brown Line train tracks are on ground level and intersect with North Kedzie Avenue, at or about 4648 North Kedzie Avenue.
3. Safety grade crossing signals consisting of two cross bucks, flashing red lights, ringing bells, gates, a notice of “2 Tracks,” overhead warnings, and a sign that prohibits stopping on the tracks control North Kedzie Avenue street traffic, as Brown Line trains approach and depart from the station.
4. At said time and place, the safety grade crossing was activated, lights were flashing, bells were ringing and gates were in a lowered position, so as to prohibit drivers from crossing the train tracks.
5. As the Plaintiff, JEFFERY BRYANT, approached the Kedzie train station, he received an illuminated signal, indicating that the safety equipment was operational, engaged, and that he was to proceed.
6. At said time and place, Chicago Police Department Officer CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ, was operating an unmarked department vehicle southbound on Kedzie Avenue, at or near the intersection with the Brown Line train tracks.
7. At said time and place, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ was a servant, agent, and/or employee of the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO.
8. At all times relevant, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ was acting in furtherance of her employment with the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO.
9. By virtue of Respondeat Superior, the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO, is responsible for the tortious conduct of its agents, servants, and employees.
10. At said time and place, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ was operating a department vehicle in pursuit of an individual suspected of riding his bicycle on the sidewalk.
11. Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is a violation of a city ordinance.
12. Based on CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ’ description of the pursuit in a police radio communication, the event was labeled a “Priority 4,” or an “Administrative Dispatch.”
13. At said time and place, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ accelerated her department vehicle around the lowered safety gate, past the flashing red lights, without regard to the ringing bells, and onto the train tracks as the train operated by the Plaintiff, JEFFERY BRYANT, was approaching.
14. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect a certain statute, 625 ILCS 5/11-1201(a), which provided that a person approaching a railroad crossing “shall not proceed until the tracks are clear and he or she can do so safely.”
15. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect a certain statute, 625 ILCS 5/11-1201(b), which provided that “no person shall drive any vehicle through, around or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.”
16. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-01 “Emergency Vehicle Operations – Pursuits,” which provided as follows:
A. The initiation, continuation, and supervisory authorization of each motor vehicle pursuit must conform to the following BALANCING TEST:
The necessity to immediately apprehend a fleeing suspect outweighs the level of inherent danger created by a motor vehicle pursuit.
B. When applying the balancing test, members will:
1. make a determination whether the:
a. speeds involved and/or the maneuvering practices engaged in permit the Department vehicle operator complete control of the Department vehicle and do not create unwarranted danger to himself or others;
b. volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic reasonably permits initiating or continuing the pursuit; and
c. weather and road conditions reasonably permit initiating or continuing the pursuit.
17. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-01 “Emergency Vehicle Operations – Pursuits,” which provided: Members will not engage in a motor vehicle pursuit whenever the most serious offense for which the motor vehicle is wanted is a non-hazardous traffic offense. (emphasis in original).
18. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-01 “Emergency Vehicle Operations – Pursuits,” which provided: Members will not engage in a motor vehicle pursuit while operating unmarked vehicles, if the most serious offense is a traffic offense. (emphasis in original).
19. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-01 “Emergency Vehicle Operations – Pursuits,” which provided: No Department vehicle will be driven through an intersection until the member operating the vehicle has determined that it is reasonable and safe to proceed. 
20. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-01 “Emergency Vehicle Operations – Pursuits,” which provided: The decision to terminate a motor vehicle pursuit may be the most reasonable course of action. Involved members and their supervisors must continuously evaluate the nature of the pursuit through application of the balancing test and other restrictions of this directive and make a judgment to terminate the pursuit whenever necessary. 
21. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-02, which provided: When engaged in non-pursuit emergency vehicle operation, the operator of an unmarked vehicle will adhere to basic traffic-safety practices.
22. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-02, which provided: When engaged in non-pursuit emergency vehicle operation, the operator of an unmarked vehicle will proceed through intersections or traffic signals only after determining it is reasonable and safe to proceed.
23. At all times relevant, there was in full force and effect Chicago Police Department General Order 03-03-02, which provided that emergency vehicle operation is prohibited during “Priority 4” events.
23. It was then and there the duty of the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO, by and through its agent, servant and/or employee, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ, to not engage in willful and wanton conduct so as to cause harm to the Plaintiff, JEFFERY BRYANT.
24. The Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO, by and through its agent, servant and/or employee, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ, was then and there guilty of one or more of the following willful and wanton acts and/or omissions:
(a) Proceeded onto the train tracks before the tracks were clear of the approaching train;
(b) Proceeded onto the train tracks before it was safe to do so;
(c) Drove around and ignored the lowered railroad safety gates;
(d) Drove past and ignored the flashing red lights,
(e) Drove past and ignored the ringing bells;
(f) Drove past and ignored the “2 Tracks” warning signs;
(g) Initiated a pursuit of a bicyclist;
(h) Continued the pursuit of a bicyclist;
(i) Maneuvered around the safety gates and onto the train tracks, thereby creating an unwarranted danger to herself and others;
(j) Pursued a bicyclists when the most serious offense for which the bicyclist was wanted was a non-hazardous traffic offense;
(k) Drove her department vehicle through an intersection when she knew or should have known that it was not reasonable and safe to proceed;
(l) Failed to terminate the motor vehicle pursuit when she knew or should have known that terminating the pursuit was the most reasonable course of action;
(m) Failed to continuously evaluate the nature of her pursuit and the risk to public safety;
(n) Failed to utilize and rely upon her training, experience, and common sense while attempting to cross the train tracks;
(o) Failed to yield to vehicles with the right of way, specifically the train entering the Kedzie train station;
(p) Failed to keep a good and proper lookout, specifically by failing to look immediately to her left before driving onto the train tracks;
(q) In violation of General Order 03-03-01, used the activity of "following" or "chasing" or "assisting" as a subterfuge for a vehicle pursuit;
(r) Failed to comply with the standards of General Order 03-03-01;
(s) Failed to comply with the standards of General Order 03-03-02;
(t) Violated the spirit of the General Orders of the Chicago Police Department.
25. That as a direct and proximate cause of the aforesaid willful and wanton acts and/or omissions of the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO, by and through its agent, servant and/or employee, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ, the department vehicle came in contact with the train operated by the Plaintiff, JEFFERY BRYANT.
26. That as a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid willful and wanton acts and/or omissions of the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO, by and through its agent, servant and/or employee, CHARLOTTE GONZALEZ, the Plaintiff then and there sustained severe and permanent injuries, both externally and internally and was and will be hindered and prevented from attending to his usual duties and affairs and has lost and will in the future lose the value of that time as aforementioned. Plaintiff also suffered great pain and anguish, both in mind and body, and will in the future continue to suffer. Plaintiff further expended and became liable for, and will expend and become liable for, large sums of money for medical care and services endeavoring to become healed and cured of said injuries.
WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff, JEFFERY BRYANT, demands judgment against the Defendant, CITY OF CHICAGO, in a sum in excess of FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS 00/100 ($50,000.00) and costs of the suit.

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