Appellate Court Upholds Record $3 Million Verdict against Chicago Police Officers for Failure to Protect Domestic Violence Victim

Chicago, Illinois – An Illinois appellate court has upheld a record-breaking $3 million jury award in a case involving the negligence of two Chicago police officers in responding to a domestic violence call. The court found sufficient evidence that the officers prioritized their own convenience over protecting the victim, who was subsequently killed by her alleged abuser.

The incident occurred on June 28th, 2015, when the police responded to a call at Vanessa Taylor’s West Side apartment. Upon arrival, the officers discovered Taylor’s boyfriend, James Thomas, wielding a Samurai sword and acting erratically. Instead of taking immediate action to secure the situation, the officers transported Thomas to a hospital and left him there.

Despite being treated with antipsychotic medication and released, Thomas returned to Taylor’s apartment and allegedly strangled her with a cable cord. A Cook County jury found the city liable for Taylor’s death and awarded her estate $3 million, a record-breaking civil judgment under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.

In their ruling, the appellate court emphasized that the officers failed to fulfill their duties under the State’s Domestic Violence Act, stating that their negligence played a significant role in Taylor’s tragic demise. The court listed several actions the officers should have taken to ensure Taylor’s safety, including informing her about protection orders and referring her to support services and a nearby shelter.

The justices also highlighted the officers’ indifference and disregard for Taylor’s well-being, noting that they were more concerned with ending their shifts than fulfilling their obligations under the law. This damning evidence allowed the jury to infer that the officers prioritized their own interests over taking reasonable measures to protect Vanessa Taylor.

The ruling serves as a strong message to law enforcement agencies about their obligations to domestic violence victims. Civil rights attorney Richard Dvorak, who represented Taylor’s family, hopes that the decision will prompt jurisdictions across Illinois to train their officers on the mandatory steps outlined in the statute. Failure to comply could result in tragic outcomes, he warned.

The city of Chicago has yet to decide whether it will appeal the court’s decision. The police department’s response and any potential changes in procedures remain unknown. The case has garnered attention from domestic violence advocacy groups, who have submitted legal briefs in support of the jury’s verdict.

This ruling comes shortly after another appeal court decision on police obligations in domestic violence cases. In that case, the court reinstated a lawsuit against the village of Maywood after police failed to take necessary actions following a domestic violence call. The justices emphasized the officers’ responsibility to provide information on obtaining protection orders and offer assistance to the victim.

These consecutive rulings highlight the importance of law enforcement officers taking domestic violence cases seriously and fulfilling their obligations. The wellbeing and safety of victims should always be prioritized, and agencies must ensure that their officers are trained accordingly. Moving forward, it is crucial that law enforcement agencies in Illinois and beyond recognize the significance of these mandatory measures to prevent more tragedies like Vanessa Taylor’s death.