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Hurley McKenna & Mertz: 2022 Success Story – $5,412,500 Verdict in Assault Case

April 11, 2022  ·  By HM&M

Hurley McKenna & Mertz: 2022 Success Story – $5,412,500 Verdict in Assault Case

Hurley McKenna & Mertz (HMM) is proud to announce that partners Michael T. Mertz and Christopher Cortese have won a Cook County Circuit Court jury verdict of $5,412,000 against a Chicago apartment building owner and property management company on behalf of a 63-year-old female apartment tenant who was attacked by an intruder in her Gold Coast apartment in 2013.

The Assault

Note: This blog post contains details surrounding a sexual assault case, which may be upsetting to some.

In 2010 the woman leased an apartment in an eleven-story building located on Stone Street in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. The building is owned by Dearborn Street Building Associates, L.L.C., and managed by Going Places, LLC. These entities own and manage approximately 30 other apartment buildings in Chicago.

Before signing the lease for the Stone Street apartment, the woman had a conversation with one of the building’s owners, who stated that it was “a very safe building” in one of Chicago’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

On August 9, 2013, at 3:20 a.m., a convicted felon named Deandre Minor walked into the lobby of the Stone Street apartment building. When Minor encountered the interior security door of the building, he was able to open it without any resistance because the door lock had malfunctioned. Security video shows Minor simply pushing the interior security door open and entering the building.

Minor then proceeded to the elevator and eventually to the fourth floor where the woman resided with her college-aged son. Minor entered the unlocked door to the woman’s apartment while she was sleeping and for nearly ten minutes attempted to sexually assault and murder the woman by strangulation. As he was strangling the woman, Minor repeated repulsive and horrifying statements. Eventually, the woman’s son awoke to the commotion, called 911, and scared off the intruder.

Minor was arrested as he attempted to flee from the building. He was convicted of home invasion, aggravated attempted sexual assault, and attempted murder, and is serving a lifetime prison sentence. Minor had been released from prison just nine days before the Gold Coast incident.

The Trial

Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. filed suit in the Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of the woman against Defendants Dearborn Street Building Associates, LLC, the owner of 1244 N. Stone, Going Places, LLC, the property manager of 1244 N. Stone, and Astor Street Partners, LLC, the company that employs the building staff of 1244 N. Stone.

The suit alleged that the Defendants failed to inspect and maintain the lock of the inner lobby security door of 1244 N. Stone, permitting Minor, the intruder, to gain access to the building and attack our client in her apartment.

The case proceeded to trial before Judge Bridget A. Mitchell of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Law Division, on April 1, 2022.

At trial, HMM partners Michael T. Mertz and Christopher Cortese presented evidence to the jury that a building tenant had warned the building’s owners several months before the attack that the building’s interior security door – which was supposed to only be accessible with a key or via a keypad – would not latch and could be pushed open. Mertz and Cortese also presented evidence that the security door lock was installed in 2008 and had never been replaced despite heavy use.

Mertz and Cortese argued that the failure of the apartment building owner and manager to have a security lock in good working order on the night of the assault also violented the City of Chicago Building Code, Section 13-164-040, which states that “[e]very building entrance shall be secured by a door equipped with a deadlocking latch with at least a one-half-inch latch bolt projection.”

Mertz and Cortese also presented evidence from health professionals that our client, the victim of a horrific assault, has severe and permanent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the assault.

At trial, the Defendants claimed they had no notice of a problem with the security door lock, and that they routinely inspected the door lock and repaired it whenever they were informed of a problem.

The Defendants also tried to blame the victim–they argued to the jury that the victim’s own contributory negligence led to the assault because she failed to lock her apartment door on the night of the attack.

The Verdict

On April 8, 2022, a Cook County Circuit Court the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Hurley McKenna and Mertz’s client and against the apartment building owner and property management company. The jury awarded the woman $5,412,500 in compensatory damages.

Kaya Mazon, a Hurley McKenna and Mertz associate attorney, assisted Mertz and Cortese with the trial.

This is believed to be a record verdict for a case involving negligent security and an assault of a building tenant.

Hurley McKenna and Mertz is proud of the work that our trial team of Mike Mertz, Chris Cortese, and Kaya Mazon did to obtain justice for our client. We’ve helped thousands of survivors of sexual abuse and assault, and we’d like to stand up for you, too. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation if you or a loved one have been a victim of assault or abuse, to see how we can help you get the justice and healing you deserve.

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