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Parents Seek Damages in 5-Year-Old's Death

The parents of 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, who was killed on Labor Day when an 18-year-old crashed into her and her family in Highland Park, have filed a civil suit against the driver.

The mother of the 5-year-old girl who was killed on Labor Day when an 18-year-old drove into her and her family is seeking damages from the driver.

Highland Park resident Carly Rousso was driving eastbound on Central Avenue on Labor Day afternoon . Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, 5, was killed.

Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento: The Story So Far

Rousso was charged last Wednesday with one count of reckless homicide and four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound, according to the Lake County State's Attorney's office. Toxicology reports indicate that the compound Difluoroethane was detected in Rousso's blood, which is found in a commercial cleaning product uncovered in Rousso's car.

According to Bob Baizer, who is representing Sacramento in the wrongful death lawsuit, Sacramento watched as Rousso crushed Jaclyn with the car and then drove over her again. 

"She ran over the little girl and then backed up, and ran over her again," Baizer said. "Modesta and the boys, they all witnessed everything."

This account has not been confirmed by the Highland Park Police Department.

The lawsuit filed seeks damages in excess of $50,000, which Baizer explained is the jurisdictional limit allowed to be pleaded. When asked how much he hoped to get for the Sacramento family, he replied, "That'll be up to a jury."

"I can assure you it's substantially more than $50,000," he said.

A hearing will be held Dec. 6 to set a trial date, which Baizer believes will be sometime in September of 2013.

"To get to trial in a year is very quick," Baizer said. 

Though there's a chance Rousso's criminal trial will be concluded by then, the outcome will not affect the civil case.

"All the evidence has to be presented all over again," Baizer said. 

If Rousso is convicted in her criminal case, however, Baizer said her credibility may be diminished in the civil case.

"If someone is convicted of a felony then you can impeach them," Baizer said. "It affects their credibility in a civil case."

Rousso faces felony charges

Rousso surrendered herself before Judge Raymond Collins last Wednesday morning. Hours later, her father posted her $500,00 bond, paying $45,000 in cash (). She will return to court on Oct. 9 for the felony charges.

Aggravated driving under the influence is a class two felony that can lead to a prison sentence of three to 14 years. Reckless homicide is a class three felony that can lead to probation or up to five years in prison, according to Lake County Deputy State's Attorney Traffic Division Chief Ken LaRue.

Jaclyn is mourned

Jaclyn's funeral mass was held last Tuesday. About a hundered people attended the funeral mass, including Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, City Manager David Knapp Police Chief Paul Shafer and Deputy Police Chief Dave Schwarz.

Paul Dean, the executive director of Family Service, also attended the service. Family Service has offered to provide free grief counseling to both the Rousso and Sacramento families.

"This tragic accident has had an enormous impact," Dean said.

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Jeff Wheeler September 21, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Good, I think it was obvious we saw this coming. However you need to check your facts -- "Civil Trial Begins December 6". That's hardly the case. The first court appearance might be Dec 6, but there is definitely not a Trial this early on. There will be motions to dismiss certain defendants (if applicable), discovery, depositions, settlement talks, and everything else. Not to mention probably a Defendant motion to delay the civil proceedings until after the criminal proceedings -- which is very commonly granted during concurrent proceedings. Jacob -- can you or Patch get a copy of the Complaint and post it? I'm curious to know who the defendants are and what the claims are -- if the parents of Carly Rousso were also named in this suit or not.
forest barbieri September 21, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Only in excess of $50,000? Who is representing this family? This is a little girl that lost her life not to mention the injuries to other family members both physical and emotional. Add 3 zeros and hire a firm like Corboy & Demetrio.
Jeff Wheeler September 21, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Forest, this is a Court Rule attorneys must follow. If the value of the claim is less than $10,000, it usually falls under small claims. If the value claimed is between $10,000 ~ $49,999 -- it is not technically a small claim but usually handled by a different Judge that handles those claims and might be subject to mandatory arbitration depending on the County the complaint was filed in. Claims over $50,000 and/or claims demanding a Jury Trial (as most Wrongful Death claims are filed as) are over $50,000. The reason why Baizer (who is an excellent attorney by the way) had to file this "in excess of $50,0000" was (1) assignment of Judge to the case, and (2) Court Fees the Plaintiff must pay to the Clerk for filing of the complaint (lawsuit). In Cook County (maybe Lake County too -- I'm not sure as I only work with cases in Cook County), the type of action filed is often assigned to a particular Civil division within the Courthouse (Chancery, Law, Municipal, etc). It would ultimately be up to the Jury to decide the actual damages and what claims might be added, amended, dropped, etc... As the case progresses, there might be some indication what the actual damages claimed are, but it's usually left open-ended, or what many trial attorneys do (if the case is not settled) is propose a high/low agreement before the trial (the high/low is not known to the Jury but might perhaps be known to the Judge. Regardless, it will likely be a 7-digit settlement and/or Jury award.
Jacob Nelson (Editor) September 21, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Thanks for clarifying, TJ. I just updated the article after having a very informative conversation with Bob Baizer, who explained everything you so clearly discussed in your comments.
Jeff Wheeler September 21, 2012 at 07:19 PM
And just to add further to this, without actually seeing the complaint, there will likely be either multiple plaintiffs (brother/sister/mom/dad) and/or multiple defendants (Carly, her parents, her drug dealer and/or the store that sold her huffing supplies, etc). Her parents could be sued for 'enabling' her. This could be a separate lawsuit all together. My guess would be it might just be the 'Santos-Sacramento Family' vs. Carly Rousso. If more evidence is discovered later that her parents were 'enabling' her (knowingly lending her car, letting her drive while high, etc) they could be sued as well. If it is later discovered that she purchased the Difluoroethane chemical or cleaning agent from "ABC Cleaning Store" and the clerk there knew she was using it for getting high or 'huffing', they could be sued as well.
Jeff Wheeler September 21, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I'd like to note that Jacob updated this article after my original comment above, so my comment has been clarified by Baizer's quote. THANKS!
forest barbieri September 21, 2012 at 08:38 PM
TJ Wheeler Thank you, Jacob and Baizer for the clarification. I am sure Baizer is highly qualified and not being a lawyer or having been involved in either side of a proceeding relative to personal injury, I was initially shocked to see in excess of $50,000 as the damages claimed. Thank you for the education and agree that the final settlement or jury award should have seven figures.
nonoise September 21, 2012 at 08:52 PM
It would be difficult to prove the parents enabled or the store did ( just my opinion, I am not an attorney). Doesn't the 18 year old or her parents have car insurance? Usually these cases get handled through the auto insurance company. Not sure why a lawsuit was filed first. First thing that happens is the lawsuit information gets passed onto their auto insurance company to handle. If the limits of the auto insurance are not enough for the claim to get settled then the family can sue for the difference. Where are the auto insurance companies in this case?
Jeff Wheeler September 21, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Auto Insurance for a simple crash will be one thing, but Wrongful Death negligence would be another. Typically in a case like this, in addition to the Auto Insurance covering auto, medical, personal property, and damages up to the maximum liability amount --- the homeowners insurance or other form of liability insurance would kick in. If that does not cover it, or meets the maximum, you would be looking at an umbrella policy to cover any excess of those. This is purely from an insurance standpoint. Now let's just assume Carly was driving her parents car (titled under her parents name and not a company or another individual) under her parent's insurance policy, and as many individuals would have a $500k/$1m auto policy coverage limit (it would be stupid if the Rousso's insurance policy did not have this maximum coverage due to their supposed net worth). In Illinois -- auto insurance policies go with the car and not the driver. (continuing comment -- see comment below)
Jeff Wheeler September 21, 2012 at 10:15 PM
(continued from comment above) The insurance would pay out the maximum. However, since Carly was at fault and she does not likely does not have any excess insurance liability (personally, not her parents), then any Court judgement over the maximum coverage limits would be her personal liability. She can kiss that dog-bite settlement goodbye, she can kiss any college savings or UTMA accounts goodbye, she can kiss any proceeds from a trust goodbye, or anything she might have inherited. Because of the severity of the case, she could file bankruptcy but any BK lawyer wouldn't let her get this debt discharged. So she would be stuck getting her wages garnished (if any) or anything she would likely get in the future for 20 years following a judgement (at least in Illinois). There are so many things attorneys can go after, and also so many ways around it from a legal perspective on how to protect assets or pierce assets through trusts, property transfers, etc Since she just turned 18, she likely doesn't have many assets other than the known dog-bite settlement. As Chilawyer pointed out in some of the previous posts, any good Plaintiff's attorney would be going after the parents and any other 'enabler'. You must play your cards right, you'd time the filing of the other lawsuits to sue the 'enablers' when you get more discovery used in both the Criminal and Civil proceedings you can better determine how they actually 'enabled' her and if they have a valid cause of action.
Lou September 22, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Attorneys' fees in these fatal crashes should be similar to medicare fees for doctors. A percentage of the fee is ridiculous, the victims' families NEED the money after serious crashes, attorneys don't NEED a new Mercedes every year. A doctor gets paid a set amount if he opens a heart and saves a life, is an attorney any more valuable than an expert heart surgeon? An attorney should get no more than what a doctor receives for a heart valve operation. Insurance companies should pay the victims directly and the family should then pay the attorney a set amount of money, set by the government, similar to the Affordable Care Act. All punitive damages should be given to the victims, not any part to the attorney, the attorney didn't suffer.
Chilawyer September 22, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Criminal conviction impact on civil case, Part 1 I think Bob Baizer is a very good lawyer, but am surprised by his comments to the media that if Rousso is convicted in the criminal case, he must still put in all his evidence in the civil case. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2000 in American Family Mutual Ins. Co. v. Savickas, 193 Ill.2d 378, 739 N.E.2d 445 (Ill. 2000) that a criminal conviction can be given collateral estoppel (preclusive) effect in a civil case if (1) the facts involved are the same in both cases and the (2) defendant had a full incentive to litigate the issues in the criminal case. Unfortunately, Patch's posting system does not allow me to attach a full copy of the Savickas opinion, but here are a few excerpts, which I think even non-lawyers will comprehend: (cont'd)
Chilawyer September 22, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Criminal conviction impact on civil case, Part 2 "We find Savickas may be estopped with his murder conviction. First, all of the threshold require-ments are satisfied. In Savickas' criminal prosecution he was held to have committed first degree murder in shooting Thomas. See People v. Savickas, 230 Ill.App.3d 322, 323, 171 Ill.Dec. 713, 594 N.E.2d 1233 (1992), citing Ill.Rev.Stat.1985, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(2). By finding him guilty of first degree murder the jury necessarily found him either to have intended to kill the victim, or at least to have known that his acts created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm. 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1992). This finding establishes that he “intended or expected” the result of his actions, the issue in the declaratory judgment action." * * * "Nor do we see any potential unfairness to Savickas in estopping him with his criminal conviction. Savickas had a full and fair opportunity to litigate all relevant issues in his criminal trial, and did so. It cannot seriously be questioned that he had a full incentive to litigate his criminal trial. Savickas was facing charges of first degree murder for the shooting death of his victim, a charge with a minimum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment and a potential maximum penalty of 60 years' imprisonment even in the ab-sence of any aggravating factors. 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(1)(a) (West 1992).
Chilawyer September 22, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Criminal conviction impact on civil case, Part 3 All of the requirements for application of collateral estoppel are present in this case. We find this is the appropriate result. Accordingly, Savickas is estopped by his criminal conviction. He therefore is precluded from arguing now that his conduct was not intentional, as this issue was determined adversely to him in the previous case." The key factual issues in Carly's criminal case and civil case are the same -- did she kill Jaclyn and injure her family, and was she at fault for doing so. The burden of proof for the criminal case, beyond a reasonable doubt, is a tougher standard (think of it as a higher bar to jump) than the burde of proof for Jaclyn's family, preponderance of the evidence (think of just needing enough evidence to tilt the scales) in the civil case. Thus, a conviction on the criminal charges would preclude Carly from raising any factual defenses in her civil case. The one drawback is that the collateral estoppel effect of a conviction does not "kick in" until any and all appeals of the conviction have been completed, and the conviction affirmed,which could take years. Baizer might feel that the evidence of Carly's fault is so clear that rather than wait years for a final criminal adjudication he'll just go ahead and put on the evidence in the civil case. That probably would mean an earlier civil judgment against the Roussos; the drawback is that Jaclyn's family winds up having to testify twice.
Chilawyer September 22, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Socialized medicine works so well in this country, by all means let's socialize all the personal injury plaintiffs' lawyers, just for starters. Better yet, just draft them directly into government service, take away their mansions and make them live in quonset huts. First, I am not a plaintiff's personal injury lawyer, so I have no vested interest in contingency fee contractual arrangements. But they are designed to enable the typical injured person, who has no money to pay hourly rate attorney's fees, get a lawyer. The lawyer gets a cut, typically 33 1/3%, of the gross amount of the settlement or verdict recovery. The lawyer gets a % because he is taking on a risk, including that the judge or jury might decide in favor of the defendant, or that the defendant's resources, including insurance $, will not be adequate to pay the verdict. Do some attorneys get what seems like a windfall? Sure, but they don't win every case and the winners help mitigate the financial burden of the losers. As to punitive damages, which are actually pretty rare, but warranted in Carly's case, under the law they are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others. They are not intended to compensate the victim -- compensatory damages do that. Some legal scholars have argued that punitive damages should go to charities or the state.
Benny G. September 22, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Twit, re-read the article before you keyboard diarrhea spew. Good Lord man!
David Greenberg September 23, 2012 at 06:20 AM
There's a few ways to compensate an attorney for the work done on a case: * Contingency - they charge little or nothing (perhaps only filing fees and court costs) and work on the 'bet' that they'll win the case and get a percentage of what's awarded. In this case, the 1/3 they typically ask for compensates them for the risk they're taking that they might get nothing. Compare to unsecured loans - they typically have high interest rates as well. The cost may appear high, but for clients who do not have financial means, this allows them access to private attorneys, whereas normally the client would have to find a Pro Bono atty, Use some publicly funded service/foundation, or go the Pro se route. * Retained - a retainer for predicted costs is paid up front. Hourly work, court costs, fees, etc. are billed against the retainer and when the retainer is used up, more money has to be paid to the Attorney before work continues. The risk is much lower to the Attorney, higher to the client - but the Attorney is still bound by the canons of ethics to zealously represent the client, so the work shouldn't be any less vigorous. * Pro Bono - find an attorney who will take on the case for free. This is rare, but in some instances the Attorney may believe in the cause and be willing to take it on. Foundations or public entities may fund some 3L students to assist in the case under the direction of a full atty... But it's likely not the best route for a complex case.
David Greenberg September 23, 2012 at 06:20 AM
upload it as a PDF to the article (same spot where it says upload photos/files) - I'd enjoy reading it...
David Greenberg September 23, 2012 at 06:24 AM
Rather than fooling around with a civil trial, estoppel motions and the like, I'd recommend negotiating a settlement long before then. It'll likely not only be less costly, but less traumatic on all involved. And the monetary outcome will likely be quite similar too with the added benefit that some money might actually be paid out, rather than having Ms. Russo file BK and discharge the debt.
Lou September 23, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Chilawyer, socialized medicine works fine in America. Have you ever heard of a Medicare patient complaining that the government covers 80% of allowable costs? Have you ever heard of a veteran complaining that 100% of his medical costs are covered by your taxes? I haven't. And the doctors who treat these patients are not living in huts.
Chilawyer September 23, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Lou, you are right. I have never heard of any senior citizen complaining about the quality of care and attention they get through medicare, or that the best doctors and other practitioners refuse to participate in medicare at all. On the veteran side, you are right, I have never heard of any veteran getting less than excellent care in a VA hospital. It's always top notch. That's why no veteran has ever complained about the VA. Socialized medicine -- it's a perfect world. We should socialize everthing. Individual liberty and economic freedom are just a crock foisted on us by the greedy rich. I nominate you, Tovarich Lou, for Supreme Commissar of the People's Republic of Highland Park.
Chilawyer September 23, 2012 at 07:45 PM
97% of cases settle before trial. Here, the insurer will tender the full amount of the policy, which would be enough to settle out Carly, who has no $ other than what's left of her dog bite settlement, but it won't be enough for Baizer (or his clients) to settle the claim against the parents. Also, this is no ordinary negligence case; it's wanton and willful negligence by Carly, and MIGHT be (depending on the facts concerning the entrustment of their vehicle) against the parents. Punitive damages are not covered by insurance. So there's a good chance this case will not settle. BK is not a magic defense for Carly. Assuming she has $200K left from her dog bite settlement, even if she files BK, what other creditors does she have besides Jaclyn's estate and her family? So it's not like Jaclyn's family would only get a small pro rata share of the $200K in a BK, they might get all of it after attorney's fees are paid.
David Greenberg September 23, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I understand BK won't be a 'magic' defense for Carly - but let's assume for a moment that a Jury awards several million dollars to Jaclyn's family. Carly then files for BK - pays out the attorney's fees from her purported $200K settlement, and the other creditors - of which Jaclyn's family may be the largest, gets the rest and nothing more. So yep, she had to pay out $200K, but didn't have to pay out some multi-million dollar judgment that she could never fulfill.
Jeff Wheeler September 24, 2012 at 12:32 AM
OK, my 2 cents here.... I firmly believe a quick settlement would maximize money received in the beginning. Especially if the insurance companies are paying out attorney fees against the policy limits. However, we do not really know many details on the case or what could be done on the Civil side of the equation. Especially if the parents were 'enabling' or found to be at fault in one form or another. RE Carly and a personal BK -- her actions would be non dischargeable under Section 523(a)(9) of the Bankruptcy Code. "for death or personal injury caused by the debtor’s operation of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft if such operation was unlawful because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol, a drug, or another substance" So that settles the bankruptcy aspect of it. However, Illinois will only allow a maximum of 15% of wages to be garnished if the debtor is making more than $375/week. And there are easy ways around this too. There could be things we do not know about this. For example the dog-bite claim could have been rolled into an annuity with payouts at different times. Or there could be a trust in which Carly is a beneficiary of that may contain much more. Any transfers within the Trust after the accident might be considered fraudulent transfers under Illinois law. A quick settlement might maximize the amount of money immediately paid, leaving the estate with more money now than later.
Jeff Wheeler September 24, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I would imagine Baizer knows about the Savickas case, but the quote Jacob put in the article makes it all much better for a layperson to understand. I also would not be surprised if Baizer is representing them on a lower contingency fee basis, pro-bono or fee-sharing arrangement post-judgment. It's a slam dunk case from the Civil side against Carly. You do not even need Carly's trial testimony even if there is not a conviction on the criminal side. In fact, Carly's testimony might only hurt instead of help. And with the Dog Bite case, Carly is certainly no stranger to the legal process. I would take Carly's deposition just to discover assets for settlement purposes and nothing more. No Illinois Judge would grant a Plaintiff motion for her (or anyone in her family) to give a deposition before the Criminal proceedings begin.
Chilawyer September 24, 2012 at 05:04 AM
David: I converted the opinion from a WestLaw Word doc to .pdf and uploaded it, and a thumbnail of the .pdf displayed in my "manage photos" page, but when I clicked on the thumbnail to label it (per Patch's direction) nothing happened, and the ,pdf is not displaying on the story page. So I guess Patch is not ready for prime time where .pdf displays are concerned.
Jeff Wheeler September 24, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Chilawyer: Use Scribd instead if you can. Don't make it searchable but drop the URL in the comments, like this: http://www.scribd.com/upload-document#files If you have the Keycite I can look it up. Too lazy to login to WL from home tonight.
Meshephelous September 24, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Damages caused as a result of a DUI are NOT DISCHARGED in bankruptcy. It's one of the exemptions in the code.
Lemony Snicket April 13, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Are the Mexicans in the United States legally? This is never addressed?
Lemony Snicket April 13, 2013 at 06:53 PM
So. Every household hAs " cleaning supplies ". Which the girl was apparently " sniffing". And she was legally slowed to drive. So how could the parents be " enablers". Anymore than the state of Illinois for giving her a drivers license?

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