30 Nov 2023

The Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District, recently handed down an opinion detailing immunity provided to public entities and their employees by section 4-102 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act). See 745 ILCS 10/4-102. In Andrade v. City of Kankakee, 2023 IL App (3d) 230035, the judgment of the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County, Illinois, was affirmed, dismissing a complaint with prejudice for the alleged failure to prevent the commission of a crime.

The plaintiffs-appellants were victims of a shooting that occurred in close proximity to the Kankakee County courthouse. Id. at ¶ 1. A complaint was filed against the City of Kankakee (and its police officers) and the Kankakee County Sheriff (and its sheriff officers). Id. Plaintiffs alleged that they had notified at least one Kankakee officer of “a specific threatened homicide” that would occur at an upcoming court appearance. Id. at ¶ 3. They further alleged that an officer met with one plaintiff to discuss the threat, which was communicated to other local authorities. Id.

The complaint sounded in claims of negligence and willful and wanton conduct. Specifically, the defendants failed to prevent the shooting, implement additional protection or surveillance, contact requisite authorities, cancel mandatory court appearances, and were otherwise willful and wanton in their actions. Id. at ¶ 4. The complaint was dismissed as section 4-102 provided absolute immunity to the sheriff defendants for the alleged failure to provide police protection or prevent the commission of a crime.

In affirming the dismissal, the Appellate Court noted that section 4-102 protection is broad, contains no exceptions, and confers absolute immunity to local public entities for negligent and willful and wanton conduct in failing to provide police protection services. Id. at ¶ 16. The failure to solve crimes, prevent crimes, and apprehend criminals fell squarely under the purview of this provision. Id. at ¶ 31. Accordingly, the sheriff defendants were immunized from liability even though they were on notice of a known specific threat. Id. (Reported by IFMK Law Attorney Associate, Christina Szocka)