Almost any employer – including government agencies – can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees when those acts or omissions in question occur in the course and scope of employment. However, in a case out of Chicago, the city has agreed to pay $20 million – $10 million each – to the families of two men killed in a fatal DUI accident involving an off-duty city police officer.
The Chicago Tribune reports the city council was embroiled in a fierce debate over the settlement negotiations that followed the families’ wrongful death lawsuits because of concern it would open the city up to liability for a range of wrongful acts committed by employees in their free time. Ultimately, there were two factors that swayed them:
- The families’ allegations (and supporting evidence) that the police department protected this particular officer in previous incidents of wrongdoing, declining to arrest or punish him for alleged crimes. This, the families say, led the officer to reasonably believe he could break the law with impunity.
- The assertion by the plaintiffs’ attorneys that if the case were to be decided by a jury, the damage award could conceivably be much higher.