Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyers & Illinois Injury Lawyers

Illinois Appellate Court Upholds a $3.5M Judgment for a Mother Whose Son Was Shot Outside a High School Basketball Game

| May 29, 2024 | Wrongful Death |

In any kind of civil lawsuit, strategies matter. By having a skilled Chicago injury attorney on your side, you can strengthen your case, as your knowledgeable attorney can deploy a variety of litigation strategies that can benefit your case. Many of these may be strategies that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own, while others are ones that require the touch of a seasoned pro to execute effectively and in a manner compliant with the law.

One of these strategies is to present multiple different theories of liability. That means giving the jury multiple different legal bases upon which the law allows the jury to find in your favor and award damages. Your attorney can help make sure that your case presents all of the theories available, and to make sure that each of the theories you present complies with the standards Illinois sets for validity. These kinds of strategies can be of particular importance in a school injury lawsuit, as those kinds of cases are notoriously difficult, due in large part to the wide-ranging immunity Illinois law gives to school boards and school employees.

That kind of strategic approach proved very helpful for one Chicago family recently in their legal action. The case involved the death of T.L., a Chicago high school student shot in a parking lot after attending a basketball game. According to the complaint submitted by T.L.’s mother’s legal team, the game, which was played on the campus of Chicago State University, featured two “bitter” rival high schools and was something where both the attendance and tensions were likely to be high.

The schools allegedly had a history of “prior known violence,” including a stabbing at a football game. Based on the past events that had unfolded, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) should have known that there was a “strong foreseeability of gang violence” at the basketball game, according to the mother.

CPS advertised the game in such a way as to create “the illusion they would be providing adequate security for all invitees.” That level of security wasn’t present, though, and a dispute during the postgame events eventually evolved into violence in the arena’s parking lots.

The mother sued the CPS school board. This mother asserted numerous theories of liability against the school board in her case. In fact, she raised six, including: failure to “implement an appropriate security plan for the safety of students given the elevated risks for violence at the event,” to “assign or maintain posts within the arena,” to “keep entrances and exits clear of crowds during and immediately after the game,” to prevent fans from “engag[ing] in multiple fights inside the arena and outside [its] entrances,” and to “prevent fans from exiting the arena in a disorderly manner.” She furthermore asserted that the board was negligent in its failure to inform the university about the past history of violence between the two rival schools.

It only took one surviving theory of liability to achieve success

Why was that so important? Because, as this case illustrates, you can lose almost all your “battles” and still win the “war.”

The jury awarded T.L.’s mother $3.5 million in damages. The board appealed and it won most of the arguments it made in that appeal. The appeals court concluded that the board was correct about most of its immunity arguments and that Illinois law’s rules related to absolute immunity and school boards shielded the board from liability on five of the six theories of liability the mother raised.

But here’s the thing: the appeals court agreed with the mother on the sixth theory of liability and, under something Illinois law calls the “general verdict” rule, that was enough. The mother, even though five of her six bases were struck down, was still entitled to a judgment in her favor (based on the one surviving theory of liability) and to the full $3.5 million sum of damages that the jury had awarded.

Achieving success in an injury or wrongful death lawsuit is about much more than just knowing the facts of the accident. It is about knowing the law and knowing how to litigate such a case. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed, make sure you have the skillful and effective legal team you need. Count on the experienced Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca for the knowledge, the skill and the experience you need to get results. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.