Most people are aware that they may face criminal charges for assault and battery incidents. What fewer people understand is that if you are a victim of an assault and battery, you can bring a negligence claim against the person who harmed you to seek compensation for your injuries. As seasoned Chicago personal injury lawyers, the dedicated attorneys at Therman Law Offices have assisted victims in asserting their right to compensation after an unjustified attack. One of the biggest issues that this type of case presents is whether evidence from the criminal action can be used in the civil action.
In a recent appellate opinion, an Illinois court discussed this issue. The defendant was found guilty in a criminal trial for aggravated battery for beating the victim with a briefcase on the side of the highway. Evidence at trial showed that the victim was driving his taxicab in downtown Chicago when he stopped in the middle of a crosswalk. The defendant then approached the taxicab and smashed the front windshield with his briefcase. The victim confronted the defendant, at which point the defendant struck the plaintiff with the briefcase. The victim required hospitalization and stitches.
The victim also filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. After a civil jury trial, the defendant was found liable for acting negligently and willfully when he beat the plaintiff with his briefcase. The trial judge entered an order stating that as a result of the defendant’s criminal conviction, there was no issue regarding whether the defendant was liable or whether his conduct was wanton and willful. The court also rejected the defendant’s request to offer evidence regarding his affirmative defenses. As a result, the jury was only asked to determine whether the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries and the value of the plaintiff’s damages. The jury concluded that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s medical bills, disfigurement, and pain and suffering. The jury did not hear any evidence regarding the defendant’s criminal conviction.
In his appeal, the defendant alleged that the lower court committed a reversible error by relying on the defendant’s prior criminal conviction for battery in determining that the defendant should be deemed liable in the civil case. The defendant also challenged the lower court’s orders denying his suggested jury instructions. In upholding the lower court’s rulings and final judgment, the appellate court noted that the criminal case contained evidence showing that the defendant failed to exercise ordinary care in attacking the plaintiff with his briefcase. It also determined that the legal doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded the defendant from relitigating the issue of his conduct in the civil action. The doctrine of collateral estoppel states that a party to a case cannot relitigate issues of fact and law that have been determined in final judgments in another proceeding. Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the civil judgment against the defendant.
If you have been involved in a criminal incident resulting in physical injuries, you may have a civil claim against the attacker. At Therman Law Offices, our seasoned team of personal injury lawyers knows just how stressful and painful this situation is for you and your loved ones. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about your legal options, so call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.