Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers handling Police Chase cases must keep abreast of recent Illinois case law dealing with police conduct constituting negligence or willful and wanton conduct. Two recent Illinois appellate courts reached different conclusions regarding the relevance a potentially critical piece of evidence in every Chicago police chase case: violation of police department General Orders.
Hudson v. City of Chicago, 378 Ill.App.3d 373, 405 (1st Dist. 2007) – Violation of an internal police department rule can constitute evidence of willful and wanton conduct
The court acknowledged that violation of the police department general order does not constitute negligence or willful and wanton conduct per se. The court cited Morton v. City of Chicago, 286 Ill.App.3d 444, 454, 222 Ill.Dec. 21, 676 N.E.2d 985, 992 (1997) for this proposition.
However, the court further stated that “Morton implicitly indicates that a violation of an internal police department rule can constitute some evidence of willful and wanton conduct.” In other words, the court found that “although a violation of an internal rule will not automatically constitute willful and wanton conduct, a jury may consider it along with other evidence in reaching a determination of willful and wanton conduct.” Accordingly, the Hudson court held that the jury could have found that the police officer’s failure to abide the general order by caravanning or pursuing the suspect or failing to adhere to basic traffic safety practices was willful and wanton under the particular circumstances of this case.
Wade v. City of Chicago, 364 Ill.App.3d 773, 781-82 (1st Dist. 2006) — Violation of police department General Orders does not constitute evidence of negligence or willful and wanton conduct
In Wade, the Illinois appellate court noted that a police officer cannot be found to have acted willfully and wantonly when he pursues a vehicle driven recklessly as long as the officer does not pursue the vehicle in a reckless fashion. See Morton, 286 Ill.App.3d at 454, 222 Ill.Dec. 21, 676 N.E.2d 98.
Furthermore, the court cited Morton for the proposition that a “violation of self-imposed rules or internal guidelines, such as the General Order section 97-3, ‘does not normally impose a legal duty, let alone constitute evidence of negligence, or beyond that, willful and wanton conduct.’” Morton, 286 Ill.App.3d at 454, 222 Ill.Dec. 21, 676 N.E.2d 985. Therefore, the court did not consider the police officer’s violation of the General Orders as evidence of willful and wanton conduct.