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McDonough County Settles Lawsuit from High Speed Chase

Rich Egger
The McDonough County Courthouse

During a special meeting Tuesday night, the county board voted unanimously to settle the lawsuit filed over a fatal, high-speed chase involving a sheriff's deputy. The settlement won't come cheaply.

You can read the resolution and settlement agreement here.

The county’s insurance company will have to pay $2 million, and the county will have to pay $1,835,000 out of its own pockets.

County Board Chairperson George Dixon said the county was originally expected to pay more than $2 million but managed to negotiate down its obligation by a quarter-million dollars.

“We got hit hard anyway. But this eased the pain a little bit. We did the best we could,” Dixon said.

He said the county will issue bonds to cover its portion of the settlement. The county will repay the borrowed money over ten years, which will allow it to spread out the expense.      

The county’s first payment of $1 million must be made by July 19, 2019, and the rest of its payment must be made by December 1, 2019.

No Appeal to Illinois Supreme Court

The county had talked about appealing the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. But Dixon said attorneys cautioned there was just a small chance of the court taking up the case and a similarly small chance of winning the case.

“If we went to the Supreme Court and lost, we had no leverage whatsoever,” Dixon said. “We could have won possibly and the plaintiff would have gotten nothing. But we thought the odds were stacked so much against us we didn’t want to go that route.”

A jury awarded damages in the case but a circuit judge later vacated the verdicts. The appellate court then reinstated them and declined the county’s request for a rehearing.

Story Background

The case concerns a fatal car crash from September, 2004.  

It began when Deputy Tom Pledge made a traffic stop north of Macomb. As Pledge walked up to the vehicle, the driver sped away. 

That led to a chase that reached estimated speeds of around 100 mph. The chase ended when Pledge’s car crashed into a mini-van at Route 67 and University Drive in Macomb. The van made a left turn in front of Pledge’s car.

The crash killed Jill Dayton of Libertyville, who was a passenger in the mini-van. That vehicle was driven by her daughter, Amanda Dayton (now Amanda Dayton Nehring).  She was injured, as was Pledge.

The money will go to Jill Dayton’s estate and to Dayton Nehring.

Pledge retired from the sheriff’s department this spring.

The car he pursued was driven by Rigoberto Herrera of Harvard.  He pleaded guilty in 2006 to aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude police and to driving under the influence. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.