The Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District, reversed a trial court ruling in a lawsuit against the McDonough County Sheriff’s Department and one of its deputies.
You can read the court’s opinion by clicking here.
The wrongful death and personal injury suit involves a traffic crash that happened in September, 2004.
The chain of events began when Deputy Thomas Pledge pulled over Rigoberto Herrera, who was reportedly driving erratically on Route 67 north of Macomb. As Pledge approached the vehicle, Herrera sped off. A chase ensued with speeds that reportedly topped 100 mph.
Police say Herrera did not have his headlights on when he zipped through the intersection of Route 67 and University Drive in Macomb, where Amanda Dayton Nehring waited to make a left turn. As she then started making the turn, the mini-van she drove collided with Pledge’s squad car.
Her mother, Jill Dayton, was killed. Amanda Dayton Nehring, Pledge, and another passenger in the mini-van were injured.
A jury ruled Pledge was not at fault, But in a split opinion the Appellate Court reversed the ruling and sent the case back to the trial court.
Justice Mary O’Brien and Justice Robert Carter were in the majority, while Justice Daniel Schmidt dissented.
Among other things, the majority decided a video the defense used to demonstrate Amanda Dayton Nehring’s line-of-sight at the intersection should not have been allowed. The justices felt the defense did not establish that the conditions shown in the video were substantially similar to conditions the night of the crash.
They said that could have confused and misled the jury.
Schmidt feels the case should never have gone to trial. He wrote that Pledge’s decision to pursue Herrera is what any reasonably qualified and conscientious police officer would have done.
Pledge and the county have asked the appellate court to reconsider its ruling and thus no date has been scheduled for the retrial.
Herrera was ultimately sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine. At the time he was sentenced, he was already in prison on an unrelated drug charge.
He also faced several civil lawsuits over the crash.