The mother of a minor injured in a police pursuit involving a stolen vehicle argues in her reply in support of partial summary judgment that if a teenager steals a vehicle, it can’t be assumed that every car thereafter is stolen.
Sheila Brawley, mother and next friend of Rhykeem Samuels, filed the complaint on Nov. 11, 2015, against the City of Madison and officer J.D. Harris, alleging Harris saw a vehicle speeding in October 2015 and began pursuit. The pursuit ended when driver Kyrus Sykes crossed the median of state Route 203, resulting in a head-on collision with a third vehicle.
As a result, Samuels was allegedly seriously injured, suffering a brain injury, multiple bone fractures, a tracheotomy and a collapsed lung.
Brawley filed a motion for partial summary judgment on Nov. 8, 2017, in regards to the defendants’ affirmative defenses where they argue that Samuels’ contributory negligence was a proximate cause of his injuries. The defendants also claim in their affirmative defenses that Samuels was aware that the vehicle being operated by Sykes was stolen, was involved in the theft and voluntarily entered the vehicle.
Brawley argues that there is no evidence that Samuels had any involvement in the theft or knowledge that the vehicle was stolen.
Brawley alleges Samuels was 15 years old at the time of the collision with no criminal record.
Samuels’ twin brother testified that he did not know Sykes to have stolen any vehicles before.
The defendants filed a response in opposition to Brawley’s motion for partial summary judgment on Jan. 16 through attorney Gerard Cook of O’Halloran Kosoff Geitner & Cook LLC in Northbrook, Ill.
They argue that sufficient evidence exists for a jury to conclude that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent by getting into a vehicle he knew to be stolen.
The response states that on Oct. 14, 2015, Detective Sergeant Michael Renth of the Madison Police Department met with the plaintiff’s twin brother Rhyheem and Brawley when Brawley was attempting to locate Rhykeem. She had told Renth that her son had gotten into a stolen truck with Sykes the week prior.
Therefore, a jury “could easily conclude that Plaintiff Samuels knew that Sykes’ vehicle on October 14 was stolen, given that he had ridden with Sykes in a stolen vehicle the week before,” the response states.
Brawley denies telling Renth that Samuels had gotten into a stolen vehicle on the prior occasion, but she admits to telling Renth that a week or two prior, Sykes had stolen another vehicle, the response states.
Further, the response states that Sykes and Samuels usually walked to each other’s’ houses. This was the first time Sykes had driven to the plaintiff’s house and had never owned a car before the day of the crash. In fact, the topic of whether or not the friends owned a car was something the group talked about.
At the very least, the defendants claim the plaintiff should have known the vehicle was stolen.
Brawley filed a reply on Feb. 16 through attorney Katie Hubbard of Goldenberg Heller & Antognoli PC in Edwardsville, arguing that summary judgment is appropriate when there is no factual basis to support an affirmative defense of contributory negligence.
She argues that the defendants alleged assumptions or speculations of Samuels’ knowledge on the day of the incident or in the weeks prior.
“However, there is no actual evidence to support this,” the reply states. “The only information used by Defendants to support the assertion that Mr. Samuels knew the vehicle was stolen, are statements of hearsay about past events by Sheila Brawley. The statements give no indication as to Mr. Samuels’ state of mind on the day of the incident.”
Brawley also calls the defendants’ circumstantial evidence “very thin.”
“The fact that a teenage boy had never owned a car before does not indicate that he must have stolen the car,” the reply states.
“The Defense is asking the Court to conclude that if a teenage boy enters a car driven by a teenage friend of driving age, and that boy has never seen the car driven by the friend before, he should assume it is stolen. This is a very big leap. This information is not circumstantial, it is speculative,” it continues.
Brawley also argues that Officer Renth’s report and affidavit are hearsay.
“Defense wants to create innuendo to brand the Plaintiff a criminal or of having participated in a criminal act from the innuendo and speculation to detract from the issues in the case,” the reply states.
“Even if Mr. Sykes had stolen a vehicle the week prior to this incident, that does not mean every vehicle he drives thereafter is stolen,” it continues. “There is also no actual evidence that Rhykeem knew that Mr. Sykes ever stole a vehicle except for the affidavit and report of an officer within the department this lawsuit is filed against based on a second-hand account from Rhykeem’s mother who was questioned when worried about whether her child was in an accident.”
On March 1, Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder took the motion for partial summary judgment under advisement.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1505