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Watts v. City of Chicago

September 24, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 94 M1 306241 Honorable Randye A. Kogan, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Tully


Plaintiff, Joey Watts, appeals the circuit court's order granting summary judgment for the defendant, the City of Chicago. On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the circuit court erred in finding that the defendant owed no duty to the plaintiff under either a negligence or willful and wanton standard of care. We affirm.

Raising several theories of liability, the plaintiff sought recovery for the alleged misconduct of two paramedics employed by the City of Chicago. The case was initially filed in the Municipal Division of the circuit court. The City filed a motion for summary judgment which was denied by the Municipal Division judge who found that a genuine issue of material fact existed. The case was then transferred to the Law Division and the City filed a second motion for summary judgment. The circuit court granted the second motion for summary judgment in favor of the City of Chicago.


The following factual summary is derived from the allegations in the plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint with attached exhibits, along with deposition testimony. We must note however that the deposition testimony is not exactly harmonious as each witness has a very different perspective of what occurred.

On September 19, 1993, at approximately 2:30 a.m., the plaintiff, Joey Watts, was involved in an automobile accident at the intersection of 120th Street and State Street in Chicago. The collision occurred in front of a City of Chicago firehouse. After the collision, Watts exited his vehicle and engaged in an argument with the occupants of the other automobile involved in the accident. At some point during the altercation, Watts was struck in the head with a hubcap by the driver of the other automobile. The passenger in Watts' vehicle, Sandra Bullock, was trapped in the vehicle.

Shortly after the incident, a City of Chicago ambulance with two Chicago Fire Department paramedics arrived. The paramedics helped Bullock onto a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance and administered emergency medical treatment. Both paramedics state that they asked Watts if he needed medical attention and Watts eventually entered the back of the ambulance.

Watts states that after he got in the ambulance, a group of individuals including the occupants of the other vehicle appeared at the rear door of the ambulance and began threatening him. They began striking him and he responded by pushing them away. Watts maintains that the paramedics ordered him to exit the ambulance and threatened to eject Bullock if he did not leave.

One of the paramedics, Gloria Medina, states that Watts was arguing with the individuals who had returned to the scene and that she told him to "take the fight outside [of the ambulance]." She said that she told him "if you are not going to stop fighting, we need to treat [Bullock], you need to fight outside with them. You can't fight in here with them." Medina said that she went to the firehouse in order to get help from the firemen and when she returned from the firehouse, Watts was no longer inside the ambulance.

The other paramedic, Roland Obafemi, states that Watts was fighting with the occupants of the other vehicle when the ambulance arrived on the scene. Obafemi states that he and Medina put Bullock in the ambulance and asked Watts several times whether he wanted to go to the hospital but Watts did not reply. Obafemi states that Watts got in and out of the ambulance numerous times as he continued arguing with the others involved in the accident.

Watts exited the ambulance and was struck in the face with a bottle by one of the occupants of the other car. As a result, Watts lost sight in his left eye.


In a cause of action based on negligence, the plaintiff must establish the existence of a duty, a breach of that duty and an injury proximately resulting from a breach of that duty. Reynolds v. Decatur Memorial Hospital, 277 Ill.App.3d 80, 85, 214 Ill.Dec. 44, 660 N.E.2d 235 (1996). Whether a duty of care exists is a question of law to be determined by the court and thus may be determined on a motion for summary judgment. Wojdyla v. City of Park Ridge, 148 Ill.2d 417, 421, 592 N.E.2d 1098 (1992). In reviewing the entry of summary judgment, an appellate court exercises de novo review and construes all evidence strictly against the movant and liberally in favor of the respondent. Barnett v. Zion Park District, 171 Ill. 2d 378, 385 (1996). Summary ...

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