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Cook County Jury awards $17.5 mil. judgment against Chicago Police Dept.

Posted on Oct 25, 2005

City slapped with $17.5 mil. judgment October 25, 2005 BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter Advertisement A Cook County jury hammered the city with a $17.5 million judgment Monday in a lawsuit brought against the Chicago Police Department for a car chase that led to the death of a pregnant woman in 2003. The jury took about seven hours to award $12.5 million to Yong Huang for the death of his wife, Qing Chang, 25. The jury, which began deliberating Friday after a two-week trial, awarded another $5 million to Huang for the death of the couple's unborn child. The city was found 75 percent responsible for the deaths and the driver of the getaway car was deemed 25 percent at fault. Still, the city is on the hook for the entire $17.5 million judgment to Huang, said one of his lawyers, William Spiro. "He is very pleased with the American justice system," Spiro said of Huang, a Chinese immigrant who was granted permanent residency status in the United States two weeks ago and now works as a chemist in New Jersey. Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city's Law Department, called the verdict "surprising and disappointing." The city will appeal, she said. The jury's finding that the getaway driver was only 25 percent responsible was "incredible," especially because the driver faces criminal charges in the deaths of Chang and her unborn child, Hoyle said. Chang, a software engineer at ThoughtWorks Inc., was crossing a street in the West Loop on Jan. 2, 2003, when a car being pursued by a Chicago Police sergeant collided with another vehicle before striking and killing her. The chase started about five minutes earlier near Kinzie and State when police were alerted that thieves had stolen a wallet from a woman at Redfish restaurant. The getaway car, a Dodge Intrepid, ran a red light and collided with a Mercedes sport-utility vehicle, police said. The Intrepid then struck Chang as she walked from her office toward her Presidential Towers apartment, police said. An investigation showed a police sergeant had disregarded an order to stop the chase. The order was given by another sergeant supervising the pursuit. "They violated their own policy," Spiro said. "The officer should have weighed the necessity of apprehending the suspect against the danger to the public. This never would have happened if it were not for deciding to do a high-speed chase in the Loop for a wallet." Four months after Chang's death, the Chicago Police Department unveiled stricter rules for officers conducting chases. "He is pleased they [the police] changed their policy," said Spiro, who represented Huang with co-counsel Michael Baird. "But they would never accept any responsibility for the death of his wife and child, and that is what bothered him." Judgments reduced Chang and her husband were unaware she was pregnant, Spiro said. An autopsy conducted by the Cook County medical examiner's office revealed she was carrying a child. Lakesha Smith, the driver of the getaway car, and Kenneth Blake, one of the passengers in the Intrepid, face charges of murder, felony murder, burglary and reckless homicide of an unborn child. A hearing is set for Dec. 12. Tamika Wilson, another passenger, had pleaded guilty to burglary last year and was sentenced to 58 months in prison. The city has faced larger judgments that were later reduced in post-trial settlements, Hoyle said. In 2000, the city was hit with a record $50 million jury award to the family of a 19-year-old asthma sufferer who died at home in 1997 while waiting for an ambulance. But the city settled for $2.7 million after a judge reversed the award and granted a new trial.

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