The family of a Chicago police officer, killed while off duty last year in an Interstate 94 crash, lodged a wrongful death suit July 16, blaming the city of Chicago and Cook County for contributing to the officer’s death by allegedly failing to replace almost one dozen missing traffic control posts at the scene.
Winifred Rodriguez filed an eight-count wrongful death suit in Cook County Circuit Court, accusing the city and county of negligence and willful and wanton misconduct in connection with the July 20, 2014, death of her son, Tito M. Rodriguez Jr. The 28-year-old Rodriguez had been a police officer for a little over a year when he died.
At about 2:30 p.m. on the day of his death, Rodriguez was driving a motorcycle east in a local lane of I-94 – the Dan Ryan Expressway – near West 69th Street in Chicago. According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune following his death, Rodriguez was headed to the Gresham District, where he was based, to begin work on the second shift at the time. According to the article, Rodriguez’ family said he had been riding a motorcycle for 10 years.
At the same time that day, 51-year-old Dennis Anderson was driving a Pontiac G5 sedan outbound in the far right express lane. Published reports about the accident indicate Anderson’s teenage sons were with him in the car at the time.
Anderson then illegally attempted to merge into the local lanes, crossing a solid white line and the striped median between the local and express lanes, and collided with Rodriguez, knocking him off his motorcycle, according to the lawsuit. Rodriguez was thrown into the air and landed on the pavement, suffering fatal injuries.
In the center of the striped median, posts had been installed as a safety measure to control traffic and deter drivers from moving from the express to the local ramp lanes. However, 11 of these posts were missing at the time of the crash. If they had been in place, they would have prevented the accident, according to the lawsuit.
Rodriguez’ mother is claiming the city “carelessly and negligently operated, managed, maintained, planned and designed” that stretch of road by allowing the 11 posts to remain missing. Further, the city failed to warn drivers of the missing posts and to install additional traffic control devices to make up for the missing posts.
Rodriguez’ mother, who is executor of his estate, is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages and the costs of bringing the suit. The mother is saying she, as well as Rodriguez' father, brother and sister suffered emotional and financial loss because of Rodriquez' death.
The family is represented by Rosemont lawyer Daniel E. Goodman. The city and county have not yet responded, a judge has not been assigned and no hearing date is yet set.
Anderson was charged with reckless homicide; his case is pending in court.