Appellate Court Finds For City in Tort Immunity Case

Author: Jacob D. Caudill

September 29, 2016

Recently, an Illinois appellate court determined a case concerning the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (“Tort Immunity Act”) and the Animal Control Act. In this case, a police department and its K-9 unit were conducting a search for a missing Alzheimer’s patient when the police dog bit the patient without provocation.

A suit was subsequently brought against the City for a breach of section 16 of the Animal Control Act. Shortly thereafter, the City sought to dismiss the suit on the basis that it had immunity under the Tort Immunity Act. However, the trial court disagreed with the City and found that immunity did not apply because strict liability applied under the Animal Control Act.

On appeal, the appellate court reversed. In finding that immunity did apply, the appellate court relied on the public policy behind the Tort Immunity Act, specifically the court stated “To hold a city police department liable based on its discernment of how to conduct a search and rescue mission, and especially one that is successful in locating an individual as in this case, would be wholly inconsistent with the strong public policy underlying section 4-102 of the Tort Immunity Act. Such a holding would also have a deterring effect on police departments’ use of police dogs on these often life-saving search and rescue missions.”

Without a doubt, holdings such as these help bolster any argument for municipal tort immunity if the need ever arises.

Author: Jacob D. Caudill