Part I – “Police Officer Liability Series”

Aug 3, 2021

ILLINOIS COURT: City of Chicago cannot be held liable for sexual assault committed by Chicago Police Officer while on duty.



gavelThis post begins Coffman Law’s “Police Officer Liability” series, which focuses on telling the stories of and when police officers and their employers may be held liable for actions they commit while on duty and while off duty. This week we take a look at a recent Illinois Appellate Court decision of which held that the City of Chicago cannot be held liable for sexual assault committed by Chicago Police Officer while on duty.

In March 2018, Chicago Police Officer Carlyle Calhoun was arrested and charged with sexual assault on a male suspect, named Anthony Powell, who was held in police custody. Anthony Powell filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleging that defendant Carlyle Calhoun, sexually assaulted Powell while he was in Calhoun’s custody on Feb. 3, 2018 at St. Bernard Hospital and therefore both Calhoun and the City are liable for the injuries that he suffered. The complaint included three claims. Count I alleged that Calhoun committed battery. Count II alleged that Calhoun’s acts were within the scope of his employment and that the City was liable for his acts under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Count III similarly alleged that Calhoun’s acts were within the scope of his employment and that the City was required to indemnify Calhoun for any judgments arising from his acts pursuant to the Tort Immunity Act.

In 2019, a judge in Cook County dismissed Counts II and III, dismissing the City of Chicago from the lawsuit, and Anthony Powell appealed. In June 2021, an Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal of the City of Chicago from the lawsuit holding that the City of Chicago cannot be held liable for the actions of the police officer, because acts of sexual assault are not within the scope of employment for a police officer. The alleged assault cannot be interpreted to further the City’s business, is not the type of conduct officer is employed to perform, and cannot be deemed an extension of a police officer’s functions or responsibilities.

In Illinois, courts look to a variety of factors as to whether and action is committed within the scope of employment.  These factors include whether the action is of the kind the individual is employed to perform; whether it occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits; and whether it is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer. All three of the factors must be satisfied, or it is not within the scope of employment.

In determining if the actions of Calhoun were the kind that the officer was employed to perform, the court looked to preexisting Illinois case law that held, sexual assault is not the kind of conduct that an employee is employed to perform.  The court found that sexual assault is not the type of action that a police officer is employed to perform and that sexual assault committed by police officers has no relation to their duties and responsibilities.

The court did not examine whether Calhoun’s conduct, sexual assault occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits.  In examining whether Calhoun’s actions had a purpose to serve his employer, the court again looked to preexisting case law that consistently found that sexual assault did not further an employer’s business.

Powell unsuccessfully argued to the court, citing federal cases and cases from other states that held that sexual assault could be within the police officer’s scope of employment since, when the officer assaulted the plaintiff, he was on duty, uniformed, armed, and driving a police vehicle.  

The criminal case against Carlyle Calhoun is still pending in the Cook County criminal courts. He is facing 36 felony counts, including multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault, multiple counts of aggravated kidnapping, and multiple counts of official misconduct.

Be sure to stay tuned to the Coffman Law blog, as we will continue updating our readers on the latest and most important legal news.

If any readers or their loved ones have been wrongfully treated by police officers and want to assess their legal options, do not hesitate to reach out to Coffman Law. By leveraging his successful track record of helping victims and their families seek justice for over 10 years and combining that experience with his overall knowledge of the court system in Illinois and Indiana, Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman launched his own Civil Rights Practice Group to help free those who have improperly treated by law enforcement. Click HERE to contact our office for a free consultation.

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a small, results-driven firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate redress for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain redress for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.