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Arnstein team secures important appellate court victory for our municipal client sued for alleged violation of Illinois School Codes

Hal R. Morris

Jenifer H. Caracciolo

Christina E. LutzArthur L. Janura

Chicago Partners Hal Morris and Jenifer Caracciolo, Chicago Associate Christina Lutz, and Hoffman Estates Partner Arthur Janura secured an important victory from the Illinois Appellate Court. In that case, the families of five minor girls, all of whom are special needs students, sued the school where they attended, several teachers and administrators and two municipalities and their respective police officers for failing to prevent the girls from being sexually assaulted over a period of months.

By way of background, a municipality near our client municipality arrested a juvenile for aggravated sexual assault of a minor in a park. That municipality did not formally or informally inform the school of this arrest. However, at a high school football game the other municipality asserted that its arresting officer told our client’s officer of the arrest. Our client’s officer was the school liaison officer but did not inform the school of the other jurisdiction’s arrest of the student and asserted that he was never told, in any event. The plaintiffs’ families brought suit in tort against the municipalities and their officers on the grounds that they violated the Illinois School Codes mandate to report such arrests and detentions and that they violated so-called required reciprocal reporting agreements.

At trial, we successfully convinced the court that our officer had no duty to report another municipality’s arrest, if such a duty were present then bailiffs, judges and others would similarly have such a duty, and that there was no common law duty to protect persons for crimes. We also argued successfully that the Illinois Tort Immunity Act immunized the municipality and officer from liability. On appeal, we argued that many of the issues were technically waived an that tort immunity protected the municipality and officer. The Illinois Appellate Court agreed and held that there was no willful and wanton exception to the immunity for failure to provide police services and failure to prevent a crime. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the municipality and officer. This decision is very important in that it avoids the very substantial verdict potential presented by this case and these very sympathetic plaintiffs.