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Illinois Court Rules That Some Transportation Companies Can Be Held Liable For The Criminal Acts Of Their Employees

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After one Chicago area woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by a bus driver, she pressed charges against both the driver and the bus company. The bus company argued that several charges should be dismissed. Initially, the trial court agreed and dismissed the charges against the bus company, but the victim took her case to the appellate court, which reinstated the victim's claims against the bus company. If you’ve been injured by someone’s negligent or malicious acts, you should talk to a personal injury attorney who can help explain your rights.

The incident began when an intoxicated woman boarded a bus operated by Pace, a Chicago area bus company. While riding on the bus, the woman passed out and was unable to get off the bus when it reached her stop. According to the lawsuit, the driver of the bus knew the victim was unable to care for herself, and he kept her on the bus until the end of his shift. When his shift ended, according to the victim, the bus driver took her to his home and sexually assaulted her while she was incapacitated.

The victim is suing the bus driver for battery (sexual assault) and false imprisonment. The victim also asserts these claims against the bus company under the rule of respondeat superior. This says that in many circumstances an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees if they are performed within the course of their employment. The words “respondeat superior” translate to “let the master answer.”

However, the rule of respondeat superior has its limitations. At trial, the bus company argued that its driver's alleged criminal acts were far outside the scope of his employment, and therefore the company should not be liable for those actions. The trial court agreed and dismissed the charges against the bus company.

The victim took her case to the Appellate Court of Illinois for the First District. The victim argued that the bus company qualifies as a “common carrier.” A common carrier is a company that transports people or goods along routes. Common carriers have a special duty to protect their passengers. Citing a case that was decided in 1882, the victim noted that a common carrier can be liable for the intentional acts of its employees, even if the intentional acts are outside the employee's scope of employment.

The appellate court agreed, noting that “Pace, as a common carrier, owed a duty of high care to passengers such as plaintiff and it entrusted that duty to [the bus driver].” The appellate court stated that this heightened duty of care is part of the driver's scope of employment, and therefore the bus company is still responsible under the rule of respondeat superior. In its ruling, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the case, and it sent the case back to be heard by the trial court.

In Illinois, transportation companies have a duty to protect passengers from harm. Companies that are classified as “common carriers” may be responsible for misdeeds by their employees, even if those misdeeds are criminal acts that are far outside a normal scope of employment. By upholding the precedent that was set in 1882, the appellate court affirmed the special rights of passengers.

If you've been harmed in an incident involving a bus, train, or plane, you need to talk to an attorney with a background in personal injury law. These claims require a thorough understanding of the law and the ability to effectively argue your case. When youâ€ve been injured, talk to an experienced attorney at Cavanagh Law Group. Contact us today.

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