By Amy McLaughlin
Daily Herald Staff Writer .
A Cook County jury awarded John and Debra Krall of Des Plaines $5 million on Wednesday, but John Krall said the money won’t take away the “six years of pure hell” caused when a Des Plaines police car crashed into his wife’s van.
Des Plaines city officials said they were disappointed in the jury’s decision that ended a two-week trial in Cook County Circuit Court. They’re considering an appeal.
“I’m glad it’s over,” John Krall said. “We’ve had six years of pure hell, actually. The money payment will never take away the mental anguish I’ve had.”
Krall said he was left to raise twin daughters essentially on his own after the September 1995 crash left his wife disabled. Krall’s attorney, Kupets & DeCaro, P.C., said Debra Krall still has trouble getting around and has no memory of life before the crash.
The Kralls filed suit shortly after the crash, while Debra was still in a coma. The lawsuit charged that Des Plaines police officer Lori Neubauer was driving recklessly when she was traveling west on Oakton Street. The car struck Krall’s 1985 Dodge Caravan as it came from the opposite direction and was making a left turn into a parking lot.
The Kralls claimed that the emergency lights weren’t on and that Neubauer was driving too fast.
City officials contend that the squad’s lights were activated because Neubauer was responding to a call from another police officer. Neubauer has since left the force.
An independent report issued by the Northwestern University Traffic Institute backed up police assertions that the car was in the correct lane of traffic and had its lights on just before the crash.
Police also said Krall’s blood alcohol was .159 percent, higher than the .10 percent that was the legal limit at the time.
“The fact of the matter is she was drunk,” City Attorney David Wiltse said. “It just seems to be another page from the book of a lack of personal responsibility.”
Kupets & DeCaro dispute that Krall was intoxicated, saying the blood serum test gave a misleading result. He said Krall, who was driving with a coworker, Susan James, had only two drinks after finishing their shifts as waitresses at Romano’s Restaurant & Lounge, 1396 E. Oakton St.
Krall was never given any tickets in connection with the crash.
James earlier settled her lawsuit out of court.
Wiltse said the city is covered by a risk management pool of money to which several communities contribute.
“It will be one of the more significant hits (to the pool),” Wiltse said. “Taxpayers will end up paying for this. ”
Wiltse said he plans to meet with Chicago attorney Greg Rogus, who defended the city in the lawsuit, to talk about a possible appeal.