Death of 5 year old boy lawsuit continues vs. Chicago Heights Police

September 21, 2011 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
September 21, 2011 - The City of Chicago Heights has failed for a fourth time to escape liability for death of Michael Langford Jr. as Cook County Circuit Court judge denied the Cities' fourth motion to dismiss Kathie LaFond's complaint for the death of her son. The case of Kathie LaFond, who first came onto the scene with her lawsuit against the Chicago Heights Police department for arresting her for driving on a suspended license and the subsequent death of her 5 year old son.

At the time (June 2010) LaFond was pulled over during a routine stop, and due to having a suspended license, she was handcuffed and put in the back of the squad car.

"I told them that my son was sleeping in the backseat and I wanted to take my baby home, and then I told him that Cecil [her boyfriend] was drinking," Kathie says. According to her lawyer Mark Horwitz: "Kathie LaFond was home sleeping after working 3 jobs when she received a call to pick up her boyfriend who was drunk and high. She had not had a drop of alcohol that evening and told the police officer that she was the designated driver and that Cecil was intoxicated."

The case's focal point revolved around the Chicago Heights Police Officer who did not listen to her concerns about her son, and turned the keys of her car and custody of her child over to the highly intoxicated Cecil Conner.

"He said, `Don't worry about it,' that he would make sure that my son got home," LaFond said.

Instead, Officer Christopher Feliceti gave the keys to Conner, the boyfriend, who began to drive home. A short time later, the boy died after Conner slammed their Chevrolet Cavalier into a tree at Carpenter Street and Steger Road. Conner's blood-alcohol level was .208, more than twice the legal limit.

In February 2011, a jury convicted Conner on both counts of aggravated driving under the influence and he faces up to 14 years in prison. Attorney Mark Horwitz now says the guilty verdict only supports his case against the Chicago Heights Police Department:

"With that conviction, the question now becomes an easier question for us to answer in a civil courtroom, and that is why didn't Felicetti [The officer] see this?" Horwitz said. "If a jury of his peers convicted him of it yesterday, the one person that could have stopped it from happening was the man that handed him the keys."

The case against the Chicago Heights Police department is starting to ramp up, as recently the Horwitz Law Group, LaFond's attorneys, defeated a 4th motion to dismiss their complaint based on the tort immunity. The case is now primed for discovery to begin.

The tort immunity laws were enacted to protect the state and public agencies from lawsuits. Though the case law continues to develop in this area, the judge's ruling on the LaFond case suggests this is an example of willful and wanton negligence on behalf of the City of Chicago Heights and Officer Feliceti, which is not protected under the Tort Immunities.

Additional Resources:
Attorneys at The Horwitz Law Group:

Illinois Tort Law: