BELLEVILLE -- A motorist and several passengers claim a St. Clair County Sheriff's Deputy drove into an intersection without lights or sirens and caused a collision.
According to the complaint filed July 8 in St. Clair County Circuit Court, the plaintiffs were in a car that was turning at an intersection when they were allegedly hit by a patrol car driven by Deputy Christopher Hoernis.
The collision happened on what is described in the complaint as a dark and rainy night in September 2018, at the intersection of State Route 157 and Rauckman Road.
Plaintiffs, Norma Carroll, Michael Verbeke, and minors, Christopher Verbeke and Julia Ducey are suing Hoernis individually for alleged "wilful and wanton conduct," as well as his employer, St. Clair County.
St. Clair County Sheriff Richard Watson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Record.
The plaintiffs allege Hoernis was driving a patrol car supplied by the county "at a recklessly high and excessive rate of speed."
He "may not have turned on the vehicles emergency lights" and his siren was not on when he approached the intersection and allegedly went through a red light, the suit states.
The deputy did not make any attempt to slow down as he "barreled into the intersection," the suit states.
The plaintiffs allege many other vehicles had made legal left turns ahead of Hoernis' vehicle.
Carroll, who was driving the vehicle, was legally in the middle of the intersection with the intention of turning left the when the deputy's vehicle went through a red light and entered the intersection, the suit states.
The suit states the deputy's car "slammed" into the driver's side of the plaintiffs' vehicle "crumpling the rear door, destroying...the rear window, and rendering the vehicle a total loss."
The plaintiffs claim Hoernis' conduct was "willful and wanton" and that he failed in his duty to drive the vehicle in a safe way.
Further, they allege he failed to keep a look out for other vehicles, drove at a reckless speed, went through a red light, and did not activate his siren.
As a result, the plaintiffs claim they were injured in the collision and were taken to a local hospital. The deputy and his passenger were also taken to the hospital, the suit states.
The plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $500,000 in actual and punitive damages from the defendants.
St. Clair Circuit Court case number 19-L-485