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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

City Not Liable for Alderman's Knock-Out Punch

Today's case involves an elected official's fist and a constituent's face.  How is this a municipal case, you ask?  Read to find out...

The facts:  A City of Harvey alderman received various phone calls from residents complaining about parked cars creating a safety hazard.  He drove to the site to investigate and saw that a number of cars were parked illegally in front of a repair shop.  He asked the employee of the repair shop to move the cars, but the employee refused to do so.  The discussion turned into a confrontation, and the alderman punched the employee in the face and head, knocking him unconscious.  The employee filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the alderman and the City.  The City filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that it was not liable for the alderman's conduct because he was not a City employee under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act. 

The ruling:  The Illinois appellate court agreed with the City.  Wilson v. City of Harvey, 2012 IL App (1st Dist.) 110393-U (October 25, 2012).  While the appellate court recognized that public entities are liable for tortious acts committed by its employees, the court held that the alderman was not a City employee for a number of reasons.  First, the city did not exercise any control over his duties as alderman. Second, the alderman did not receive direction from the mayor, members of the city council, or any other official.  Third, the City lacked the authority to train, supervise, or discipline the alderman, who answered directly to the electorate.  Even if the alderman could be an employee of the City, the court held that he was acting outside the scope of his aldermanic duties when he delivered the knock-out punch to one of his constituents.

According to the court, "there is no question of fact that punching a constituent serves no legislative function."  Thus, the City was not liable for its alderman's conduct.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.


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