A Chicago federal appellate panel has ruled a man, who settled a suit against a Chicago police officer over the man's claim the officer pushed him out a third-floor window during an arrest, cannot now sue the city and other officers for allegedly covering up the officer’s alleged act, because the man had agreed to abandon any further claims stemming from the incident.
Judge Amy Barrett issued the Feb. 5 ruling with agreement from Judges Michael Kanne and Diane Sykes, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
The ruling rejected an effort by plaintiff Ronald Crosby to advance a suit against Chicago City Hall and police officers Eduardo Gonzalez, Joseph Corona, Salvatore N. Ruggiero and Humberto Munguia.
In 2010, Crosby fell from a third-story window in Chicago. He alleged Gonzalez shoved him out the window, and alleged further that Gonzalez then justified the act by lying that Crosby illegally had a gun. Crosby was sentenced to eight years in prison under the state armed career criminal statute, but his conviction was overturned in 2016.
Crosby sued Gonzalez, alleging excessive force and improper entry. A settlement was reached in 2015 by Crosby, Gonzalez and the city, although the city was not a defendant. The settlement gave $5,000 to Crosby, and in turn, Crosby agreed to forgo any further claims against Gonzalez, the city and any other officers in connection with the incident.
In 2018 in Chicago federal district court, Crosby again sued the city and Gonzalez, as well as the three other officers. Crosby claimed Gonzalez's alleged lie about the gun, which the other officers backed up, led to his wrongful imprisonment. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall threw out the case, finding Crosby had waived his right to any further lawsuits over the incident.
On appeal, Crosby argued he had only agreed to abandon his claims over the officer's alleged excessive force and improper entry, not claims relating to the alleged cover-up.
However, Judge Barrett concurred with Kendall's finding.
"The contract makes plain that in exchange for the settlement money, Crosby agreed to do more than dismiss his existing suit with prejudice: he also agreed to release the City, Gonzalez, and its officers from liability for 'all claims,'" and the "desire to dispose of those claims is what drove the parties to the bargaining table," Barrett concluded.
Barrett added: "The agreement was designed to resolve all claims related to the incident, not only the ones that Crosby asserted in his first suit."
Barrett observed Crosby released all claims arising directly or indirectly from the incident, and his claim pertaining to a cover-up is "plainly" tied to the incident allegedly covered up.
Crosby was represented by the Chicago firm of Kenneth N. Flaxman P.C.
The city and officers were represented by attorney Elizabeth Tisher, of the city's legal department.