According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the city of Chicago must pay $16 million to compensate the victims of an accident from 2011 in which a drunk city laborer plowed a city truck into a crowd of pedestrians walking along the sidewalk in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Last week a $7.4 million settlement was announced for the most seriously injured victim who shoved aside a stroller with a baby inside just a second before the truck jumped the curb and ran down the crowd of people. The driver had a blood-alcohol level at more than twice the legal limit of .08 and an open bottle of liquor inside the city-owned truck. In criminal court, the driver pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated driving under the influence. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Our attorneys represented another one of the victims of this accident, a 27-year-old man who suffered multiple serious injuries in the accident. In September, a Cook County jury awarded him a $2.4 million verdict. At trial, he was represented by attorneys Susan Novosad and Jordan Powell from our office. Our suit alleged at the driver was operating his vehicle under the influence and that the City of Chicago assumed vicarious liability for the driver’s actions because he was a city employee. At the time of this accident in 2011, the city of Chicago did not require random alcohol and drug tests for drivers, unless they held commercial drivers licenses. This driver was sanitation worker and only assigned to garbage cans and debris, so he had not undergone the tests. However, after the crash, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered for tightened supervision to prevent future accidents.
Employers, in this case the city of Chicago, are liable for the negligent and tortious actions of their employees. When an employer hires an individual, they assume responsibility for the actions and harms that an employee may cause while working for and representing the employer. In this case at hand, because the driver was on the job and using a city truck, he was under the supervision of his employer, the city of Chicago. Where an employer is legally liable for the actions of an employee who has been negligent and reckless and caused injuries to others, is called “respondeat superior.” The reasoning behind this legal terminology is that an employee is an agent for the employer and has been authorized and entrusted by the employer to act. Where facts show that an employer-employee relationship exists (here, the driver was on the job using a city truck), an employer can be held responsible for injuries caused by the employee while in the course of employment.