11-Year Process Ends With Cook County Agreeing to Pay 10 Million to Settle Car Crash with Sheriff Officer

On Memorial Day 200, M.P. was severely injured when her car was hit by a sheriff’s officer who was driving his car at about 75 mph through a red light on the Midlothian Turnpike. M.P. suffered partial paralysis and has since lived in a nursing home. She is paralyzed below her neck and unable to speak. The crash killed M.P.’s passenger.

Approximately 90 minutes after the crash, a blood exam revealed that M.P. had exceeded the legal limit of alcohol. M.P.’ s lawyers argued that her body was still absorbing the alcohol when the blood test was done and that her intoxication level was lower at the time of the crash. Cook County countered that M.P. was eliminating the alcohol at the test time, so her alcohol content was actually higher at the time of the crash.

The lawsuit was brought by M.P. against the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, but the trial judge excluded evidence of M.P.’s alcohol consumption. In that jury trial, it was found that M.P. was 25 percent responsible for the crash, but the jury awarded her $26.8 million.

The case was appealed to the Illinois First District Appellate Court where the verdict was reversed and a new trial ordered. The appellate court found that the alcohol issue had to be included in the evidence. Cook County presented evidence at the second trial from an expert who testified that M.P.’s blood-alcohol content ranged from 0.109 to 0.144 at the time of the blood test. The second trial ended in a defense verdict in favor of the County.

The trial judge granted a motion by M.P.’s lawyers for a third trial. The trial judge held that the defense expert presented prejudicial speculation by giving opinion testimony estimating that M.P. was “impaired” at the time of the crash.

Cook County then appealed from that order resulting in the second appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court. The Illinois Appellate Court ordered a new trial. The Illinois Supreme Court declined to accept the case on appeal from the appellate court’s decision, and a March 2012 setting was set for the third trial.

Instead, Cook County and M.P. agreed to mediation, and a settlement was reached. M.P. was represented by attorney Paul L. Salzetta.

Of the $10 million settlement reached, Cook County was ordered to pay $3.75 million; the rest of the settlement was agreed to come from insurance. The County also had agreed to settle with the estate of the M.P. passenger in 2006 for $5.75 million.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling personal injury matters, car crashes, truck accidents and protecting the safety of individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Zion, North Chicago, Evanston, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Park Forest, Glendale Heights and Elmwood Park, Illinois.

Related blog posts:

Illinois Jury Finds for Defendant Driver Who Was Ticketed for Hitting Stopped Vehicle

Illinois Appellate Court Holds For Truck Driver in Highway Rollover Case, Reversing Trial Court Decision; Foreman v. Gunite Corporation

Illinois Appellate Court Holds That Emergency Medical Services Act Does Not Immunize Ambulance Drivers for Negligent Driving; Wilkins v. Williams