The First District Appellate Court of Illinois recently issued a decision with regard to Section 4-106(b) of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. In Townsend v. City of Chicago, 2019 IL App (1st) 180771 (1st Dist. 2019), Plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the vehicle in which he was a passenger was struck by another vehicle which was driven by an individual who had fled the scene of a traffic stop effectuated by several City of Chicago Police Department Officers.
The Court granted summary judgment for the City based on Section 4-106(b) which immunizes public entities and their employees from liability for injuries incurred as a result of escaped or escaping prisoners. The Court concluded that the driver of the vehicle which hit Plaintiff’s vehicle was an “escaping prisoner” under the Tort Immunity Act even though the driver had not been arrested when he fled the scene of a traffic stop. The Court focused on the facts that the driver of the vehicle maneuvered into the driver’s seat when the officers’ attention was diverted, evaded officer’s attempts to grab him, and drove away at a high rate of speed. The Court concluded that during the traffic stop no reasonable person in the driver’s position would have objectively felt free to leave, given that two of the four occupants of the vehicle were physically restrained and the traffic stop had not yet concluded. Thus, the Court held that the driver was in custody at the time and therefore an “escaping prisoner” under Section 4-106(b) of the Tort Immunity Act.