Waitress Involved In Squad Car Crash Awarded $5 Million
Des Plaines Journal
By TODD WESSELL
Des Plaines officials are weighing the possibility of appealing a Cook County jury’s awarding Wednesday of $5 million to a Des Plaines woman who was severely injured in a 1995 car crashing involving a Des Plaines police officer.
Des Plaines resident Debra Krall, a former waitress at Romano’s Restaurant, was awarded the $5 million by the jury following a 2-1/2 week trial in downtown Chicago.
The accident occurred on Oakton Street as Mrs. Krall and another waitress at Romano’s, Susan James, were driving in an eastbound van on Oakton making a left turn into Packy’s Liquors parking lot. As the van was turning left, a westbound squad car driven by police officer Lori Neubauer, crashed into the van severely injuring the two occupants. Neubauer had just been called by other officers as backup at a Lee Street tavern about a mile away. Two plain-clothes officers at the tavern asked for Neubauer’s assistance as a way of displaying to the men who had been stopped that they had been stopped by the police officers.
Krall was left disabled by the crash and has no memory of her life before the mishap, including the birth of her twin daughters.
Earlier this year, the City of Des Plaines agreed on a cash settlement with James. The amount of money she received was approximately $1 million. The $5 million Krall will receive, provided the city does not win a potential appeal, will come from city insurance.
According to Krall’s attorney Dave Kupets, the jury decided that the city should pay Krall an award of $6.7 million. However, in doing so, they also said that Krall’s contributing responsibility in the crash amounted to 25% of the $6.7 million, which lowered the final award to $5 million.
Des Plaines City Attorney Dave Wiltse told the Journal Wednesday that it is the city’s position that Officer Neubauer was not traveling on Oakton at an extensive rate of speed, which Krall alleged. In addition, he said the squad car’s overhead emergency lights did not have to be activated. Also, Wiltse cited medical tests that showed that Krall was legally drunk at the time the accident occurred.
“This seems to be another lack of personal responsibility,” said Wiltse. “Society is definitely moving toward an attitude of you get hurt, you get paid. That’s not good for society.”
Wiltse said he will be advising alderman Thursday on the jury verdict and whether or not the city should file an appeal.
“We will look at the evidence to determine whether we will appeal,” said Wiltse. If the city does appeal, it will take the case before a three-member court that is charged with reviewing the evidence to determine whether any legal errors were committed. The city has approximately 30 days to file the request for an appeal. One city official, who asked that his name not be published, said he believes the city will appeal.
“It was an exhausting case,” said Kupets. “It was a tough set of facts.”