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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Trucker Has Case Against Cops He Says Stole Meds

CHICAGO (CN) - Illinois police failed to dismiss claims that they arrested a middle-aged truck driver outside of an emergency room solely to confiscate his medication so they could sell it on the black market. The truck driver allegedly lost his job and suffered a heart attack because of the improper arrest.

John Prate, a Utah-based long-haul truck driver, took several prescription drugs for his medical conditions, including pain medication for metal implants in his spine. The Coumadin he took for a pulmonary embolism required him to take monthly blood tests

While preparing for 30 days on the road in August 2009, Prate went to the hospital at 3 a.m. to get his blood tested. The clinic did not open until 6 a.m., however, so Prate waited in his car and fell asleep.

While waiting for the clinic to open, Prate and his son fell asleep in their vehicle. They awoke to a police officer rapping on the window with backup officers surrounding. After Prate consented to a search of his vehicle, one of the officers found his prescriptions and allegedly said, "Oh, we've got some good prescription drugs here."

Prate was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. Instead of inventorying the prescription medication they had confiscated, the officers logged one pill into evidence.

Prate filed a lawsuit against the village of Downers Grove and eight police officers, including Officer Randall J. Caudill Jr. who is currently under indictment for abusing his position to steal drugs from citizens and sell them on the black market.

The officers allegedly collaborated with Caudill to steal Prate's drugs for their own profit and maliciously charged him with nine counts of driving under the influence. Although the DUI charges did not hold up, they effectively ended Prate's career as a truck diver, according to the complaint.

Prate also claimed that he suffered a heart attack from the stress of being unemployed and having to fight the false charges.

With the exception of Caudill, the police officers and village filed separate motions to dismiss.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve struck Prate's prayer for punitive damages on Nov. 7, but the defendants were otherwise unsuccessful. The officers cannot dismiss Prate's state-law claims because there are no such claims pending against them, the judge clucked.

Though the village does face such charges, the theory of respondeat superior protects the charges from a one-year statute of limitations, according to the court.

This doctrine allows a plaintiff to hold an employer "vicariously liable for its employees' acts that are committed within the scope of their employment."

Citing precedent, she said that "when an employer is sued under a theory of respondeat superior, 'the servant is not a necessary party in an action against the master.'"

"Therefore plaintiff's failure to timely name the officer defendants as defendants does not preclude the plaintiff from seeking recovery from the village based on their conduct," St. Eve wrote.

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