You may remember the newspaper headlines a few years ago involving a tragic accident that struck in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. In late May 2011, a Chicago Streets and Sanitation worker was driving a city vehicle near the corners of Rush and Cedar streets in the middle of the day. Strangely, when at the intersection, the city driver lost control of the vehicle and it careered off the road and onto the sidewalk.
It was not long before the root of the problem was uncovered—the driver’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the car accident, and an open brandy bottle was found nearby.
The incident caused severe injury to several passersby who happened to be on the sidewalk at the time. One of those was a 27-year old man named Stephen Dewart. Stephen was participating in a photoshoot for his wife’s company when the truck hit him,. His injuries were severe. He ultimately required several surgeries and a rod implanted in one of his legs. Stephen endured month of rehabilitation and therapy following the incident.
A lawsuit was filed the next month by Levin & Perconti against the driver and his employer, the City of Chicago. Legal rules regarding vicarious liability generally hold an employer responsible for the conduct of the employee when the employee is on the clock.
The case eventually went to trial where the only issue was damages–the City admitted that they were at fault for the accident. Eventually, after a five-day trial and two hour deliberation, the jury came back and awarded Dewart $2.4 million.
In the aftermath, one of our injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti, Jordan Powell, explained, “For over two years Stephen has been fighting to regain the life he had prior to this terrible accident. We hope that this verdict will bring him some peace while helping him to move forward. We also hope that this lawsuit will encourage City officials to create more effective screening processes for City employees to avoid future accidents such as this.”
General Principles of Negligence: From Nursing Home Abuse to Car Accidents
Of course, this particular case does not involve mistreatment at a nursing home. But it is a good reminder of several general principles of negligence that apply in many injury cases, even when the specifics are very different.
For example, issues of vicarious liability like that in this Gold Coast accident case, frequently arise in nursing home neglect matters. Consider that much mistreatment occurs because of errors in judgement by individual caregivers at these facilities. Yet, just because the individual caregiver may make a mistake, that does not mean that only they can be held individually liable for their conduct. Instead, so long as they are working while negligent, their employer–the nursing home itself–is liable. This is a long-standing legal rule. It was put in place to ensure fairness for those harmed and to incentivize employers to be cautious about who they hire, train, and put into various positions where they may harm others.