The City of Joliet and a Joliet police officer were sued by the officer’s (former) friend for negligence when the friend was allegedly injured during a “police ride along.” Just before going on the ride along, the passenger had knowingly executed a broadly worded waiver and release which absolved the City and the officer for any potential claims which might arise during the ride along. Later that evening, the officer heard about an ongoing traffic stop in a high crime area over his police radio and decided to back up his fellow officer. The officer began a U-turn but was struck by an oncoming car, and the passenger-friend claimed that he suffered neck and back injuries in the accident.
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that principles of contract law insulated the City and the officer from liability, regardless of whether the waiver specifically referred to “negligence.” The Honorable Roger D. Rickmon of Will County granted summary judgment in favor of both the City and the officer, holding that the executed waiver included broad language absolving defendants from liability and that the alleged events were, at the very least, reasonably foreseeable.
In a larger sense, the court’s ruling preserves officer ride along programs across the state. In order for police departments to continue these programs and allow for observers to willfully participate, liability waivers are crucial to protect municipalities from being sued even more often. And the ride along program is an invaluable way to educate the public regarding the responsibilities and dangers of the people who serve and protect. The City and its officer were represented in the case by HC&B attorneys Jason Rose and Christian Ketter.