A Chicago couple can't proceed with a portion of their lawsuit against two Chicago Police officers, after a federal judge said the plaintiffs can't demonstrate the officers acted with a "deliberate intention to cause harm" or "utter indifference" for the couple's property, when the officers searched and damaged their home, allegedly without a warrant.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles P. Kocoras of the Northern District of Illinois granted the city's motion to dismiss those allegations, ruling that the officers are immune from liability under state law, as they were carrying out their police duties and it was not claimed their actions were "willful and wanton." Two other counts, for constitutional violations and an indemnity claim against the city, remain on the docket of the lawsuit by Celestine and Richard Norman.
The plaintiffs accuse the unidentified officers, named only as John Does 1 and 2, as the couple does not yet know their names, of entering their home during a gathering to celebrate the life of their deceased son. In his order delivered on Jan. 21, Kocoras recounted details of the claims made by the plaintiffs that centered on an incident that happened on June 14, 2019, nine days after the Normans' son, 30-year-old Richard Norman Jr., was killed in a drive-by shooting in the Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, according to news reports.
The Normans have claimed that "two unnamed and non-uniformed Chicago Police officers" entered the couple's home without a warrant in search of a suspect and, while inside the home, caused $2,000 in damages. The plaintiffs filed a complaint claiming 4th Amendment violations, common law negligence and demanding the city pay under indemnity. The city filed the motion to dismiss the negligence count.
In their argument, the Normans stated that the officers "were not executing any law at the time of the incident because they were not in uniform, made no arrests and entered the plaintiffs’ property with neither a warrant nor permission," and therefore should not be covered by the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, which generally shields government officials from lawsuits over the exercise of their official duties.
Kocoras disagreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that the officers were acting within the scope of their employment and that their search for a criminal suspect qualifies as a law enforcement action. Kocoras also agreed with the city's argument that no exception applies because the plaintiffs do not allege that the conduct was "wilful and wanton" and that no evidence was presented by the plaintiffs that would reveal "a deliberate intention to cause harm” or an “utter indifference" to people or property.
The Normans are represented by attorney John E. Marszalek, of Marszalek & Marszalek, of Chicago.
The city is represented by attorneys with the Chicago Department of Law.