Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Mother of minor injured in police pursuit of stolen vehicle seeks to dismiss third-party complaint


By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Sep 27, 2018

The mother of a minor who was injured as a passenger in a stolen vehicle during a police pursuit seeks to dismiss or sever the City of Madison’s “sham” third-party complaint against the driver from her “very real” claim.

The City of Madison filed the third-party complaint on Nov. 1, 2017 against Semekia Ellis, as special administrator of Kyrus D. Sykes, who was driving the stolen vehicle.

On Sept. 24, Sheila Brawley, mother and next friend of Rhykeem D. Samuels, filed a motion to dismiss a third party complaint through attorney Thomas J. Lech of Goldenberg Heller & Antognoli.

Lech wrote that the City of Madison’s third-party complaint filed against “one of the minor children killed in the catastrophic collision” does not present a “justiciable matter.”

The motion to dismiss states that no remedy is provided to the City of Madison, as “liability insurance does not exist and has never existed for the accident of October 14, 2015 for Kyrus D. Sykes or the estate of Kyrus D. Sykes.”

“There cannot be a justiciable matter in the absence of a legal remedy,” Lech wrote.

The motion states that because exclusive remedy is limited to the proceeds of a liability insurance plan that does not exist in this case, the court cannot order any remedy to the City of Madison under the third-party complaint.

“Without the ability to award any specific relief under the third-party complaint, there is nothing concrete, conclusive or determinative that the court can do to adjudicate the rights between the third-party litigants,” the motion states.

In the alternative, Brawley seeks to sever the City of Madison’s “sham” third-party complaint from her “very real” claim.

“The court should not allow a real controversy to be tried at the same time as a sham proceeding,” Lech wrote.

“No matter what facts are ultimately determined at trial, those facts will not affect the fact that no relief is available under the third-party complaint,” he added.

Calling any adjudication of the third-party complaint a “farce,” Lech argues that Ellis does not have legal representation, “and why would she. Kyrus D. Sykes did not have any assets when he died and there is no insurance.

“Why would any special administrator appointed under the circumstances … incur legal fees when there can be no impact whatsoever on the third-party defendant,” the motion states.

“This is the very type of situation where the Illinois Constitution prohibits courts from exercising any form of subject matter jurisdiction because no set of facts could ever affect the rights between these parties,” Lech added.

The City of Madison’s three-page third-party complaint was filed through attorneys Gerard Cook and Michael Victor of O’Halloran Kosoff Geitner and Cook LLC in Northbrook, Ill.

The defendant claims Sykes negligently caused the injuries by driving the van at an excessive rate of speed on a residential roadway and in violation of the posted speed limits, failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident, failing to maintain a proper lookout for other vehicles traveling on the roadway and when approaching an intersection, failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, failing to yield the right-of-way and disobeying traffic control signals.

The original complaint against the City of Madison was filed by Sheila Brawley, mother and next friend of Rhykeem Samuels, a minor, on Nov. 11. Officer J.D. Harris was also named a defendant in the suit.

Brawley claims Harris saw a vehicle speeding on Oct. 14, 2015, and allegedly began pursuit. She alleges the pursuit ended when Sykes, the driver of the vehicle being pursued, crossed the median of state Route 203, resulting in a head-on collision with a third vehicle. There were three juvenile boys in the stolen vehicle at the time of the crash. Passenger Marcus Gordon and Sykes died as a result of the collision.

The minivan the boys were in was reported stolen in Fairview Heights.

Brawley alleges the defendant should have known their acts would result in severe injury. As a result, Samuels was allegedly seriously and permanently injured.

The defendants denied liability and argued that Samuels was actively involved in the theft of the 2011 Honda Odyssey. They also alleged Samuels knew Sykes would drive in an unreasonably dangerous manner.

They add that Samuels breached a duty of care for his own safety by voluntarily entering the vehicle with Sykes when he knew it was stolen, knew it was being operated by a criminal and knew the risk of Sykes fleeing when confronted by the police.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1505

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Goldenberg Heller Antognoli Madison County Circuit Court

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