Illinois Court of Appeal Upholds Summary Judgment for Defendants in Drunk Driving Fatality Case Involving Vicarious Liability Doctrine

If you lost a loved one in a personal injury accident, you might be entitled to compensation for your damages and expenses. It can be terribly overwhelming to think about pursuing legal action during such a traumatic time, which is why consulting with a lawyer can be a great idea. At Therman Law Offices, our Chicago wrongful death lawyers are standing by to assist you with learning more about your legal rights following the tragic and sudden loss of a loved one. We will make sure that you understand every step of the process and help you fight to secure the settlement or judgment that you deserve.

Recently, the Illinois Court of Appeal issued an opinion in a case involving a wrongful death claim. The decedent tragically lost his life in a car accident on Illinois Route 114 in Momence. The driver of the vehicle that struck the decedent’s vehicle had left her friend’s house and was intoxicated at the time of the crash. The plaintiff, a representative of the decedent’s estate, brought claims against the driver and the friends, alleging that they were negligent in allowing the driver to leave the premises while visibly intoxicated.

The plaintiff amended the complaint a number of times and eventually included a claim based on the doctrine of respondeat superior, also known as vicarious liability, alleging that the defendants were liable for the driver’s negligence because the driver was acting in the capacity as an agent for the defendants at the time of the crash. The plaintiff alleged that the driver was acting as an employee of the defendants when the crash occurred. The driver had assisted the friends with unloading feed for their horses before spending two hours consuming alcoholic beverages at the property.

The defendants filed motions for summary judgment. The driver alleged that the driver was a friend and not engaged in a formal employment relationship. They also argued that the driver did not show any visible signs of intoxication. The court granted summary judgment on the respondeat superior claims but allowed the plaintiff to amend the complaint to add a theory of negligence based on in-concert liability. Under this theory, the plaintiff would argue that the friends were liable for the decedent’s death because one of the friends encouraged the driver to become intoxicated.

The plaintiff appealed the dismissal of the respondeat superior claims. On review, the appellate court ultimately upheld the grant of summary judgment, finding that there were not enough facts to establish an employment relationship between the friends and the driver. Nothing suggested that the friends were in control of the driver or his vehicle or that there was an agency relationship between them.

If you lost a loved one, contact Therman Law Offices today to set up a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your potential right to financial recovery. Although no amount of money can truly make up for the hurt that you and your family have endured, it can help you take care of all of the expenses associated with a tragic loss. Call our office now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.

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