View All Newsroom: Press Releases Print PDF

Romanucci & Blandin Senior Partner Frank A. Sommario successfully obtains an Illinois Workers’ Compensation arbitration decision against Cook County Sheriff’s Office for Covid-19 Related Death of a Deputy Sheriff Correctional Officer

May 18, 2023

Antoine Jones died after contracting Covid-19 at work at Cook County Jail, and his wife was denied death benefits for three years

CHICAGO (May 18, 2023) – Romanucci & Blandin, LLC announces Senior Partner Frank A. Sommario successfully obtained an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Arbitration Decision awarding death benefits, penalties, attorney fees, and costs after a three-year-long battle.  Mr. Sommario was seeking death benefits and other financial relief for the widow of Cook County Deputy Sheriff Correctional Officer Antoine Jones. Jones worked at Cook County Jail and contracted Covid-19 while on the job in the first weeks of the pandemic in late March of 2020. He died on May 10, 2020.

On March 20, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Executive Order 2020-10, known as the Covid-19 “Stay at Home” Order, and pursuant to this order all first responders, law enforcement and corrections personnel were exempt from this “Stay at Home” order. Thus Mr. Jones continued to work at the jail, where he was exposed to Covid-19. On June 5, 2020, Governor Pritzker signed into law the rebuttable presumption for Covid-19 for first responders who were exposed to and contracted Covid-19 on or after March 9, 2020. Pursuant to this law, Mr. Jones’  exposure to and contraction of Covid-19 was rebuttably presumed to have arisen out of and in the course of employment, and thus, the Covid-19 contraction was rebuttably presumed to be causally related to his employment.

Before Mr. Jones contracted the deadly disease, the County publicly declared its notice of the risks to him and his fellow workers.  In late March of 2020 on WGN news, Cook County Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle stated the jail was a “petri dish” for Covid-19 infections, and Sheriff Tom Dart himself was quoted regarding the conditions at the jail and the exposure/contraction rates among inmates and the Sheriff’s Department employees. Further, the Sheriff’s Department issued a letter in November 2020, declaring Mr. Jones’ death to be “in the line of duty.” Despite having publicly admitted its notice of risks, Cook County continued to dispute this case on the legal issue of notice as well as on other every other single issue, causing the widow to have to incur costs related to extensive expert-related litigation. Cook County continued to willfully withhold all legally-entitled death benefits to the widow and family of a first responder, preventing them from getting death benefits from the very Act that the Governor signed into law.

The only way the County could rebut these presumptions per the law was with evidence that: the employee was working from home (which did not apply in this case); the employer engaged in and applied safety practices based on Guidelines of CDC or Illinois Public Health and/or provided Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for at least 14 days prior to the Covid-19 diagnosis (there were none yet in March 2020); or evidence that he was exposed elsewhere (there was none in this case).

After three years of pleading and legal expenses to hold Cook County accountable to state law, Workers’ Compensation Attorney Frank A. Sommario successfully obtained an Award of the Arbitrator, which stated Mrs. Jones is entitled to weekly death benefit payments for life, penalties, attorney fees, and costs, where the total amount of the award that has accrued to date was in excess of $235,000. Mrs. Jones will continue to get the weekly death benefits and eventually will be eligible for cost of living adjustments in the future.

“The result of this matter follows three years of the County unjustifiably choosing to not pay death benefits on an undisputed Covid-19 death for a Sheriff’s Officer and now will cost the taxpayers the penalties, attorneys fees, and costs as well. The County chose to pay an outside counsel instead of allowing the State’s Attorney's office, which is the normal protocol for all Cook County employees’ workers’ compensation claims, to defend this case that should never have been defended,” said Frank A. Sommario, Senior Partner, Romanucci & Blandin, LLC. “Further, we hope that the County chooses to accept this decision and finally pay the award, rather than spend additional taxpayer money on a frivolous appeal. Mr. Jones’ family deserves to receive the benefits that they were entitled to for his death in the line of service, and his widow should be allowed the grace to move on with her grieving and live her life.”

To learn more about workers’ compensation claims please visit:

About Romanucci & Blandin, LLC

Romanucci & Blandin is a Chicago-based national trial practice committed to fighting for victims of negligence, abuse and wrongful death. For 25 years, we have secured more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients - many for millions of dollars and others record-setting awards. Our experience ranges from mass shootings, civil rights and police misconduct to medical malpractice, sexual abuse, motor vehicle accidents or workplace injury cases involving individual or institutional negligence. Romanucci & Blandin is a valuable legal resource to individuals and groups of people who have been injured by others’ wrongdoing.

Referring attorneys and clients say several factors differentiate our firm: Our record of success, depth of experience, talented and dedicated legal team, tireless preparation and strategic use of communications to fight for the rights of those whose lives have been changed forever. We are different from other personal injury firms in that our work does not stop when a verdict or settlement is secured. We are often inspired by our clients’ experiences and commit resources to create change in our communities. For more information about Romanucci & Blandin, please visit or call (312) 458-1000.

Related Attorneys

Jump to Page


Get a free consultation regarding your personal injury case today.

Tell Us About Your Case

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

* Indicates a required field.

Necessary Cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytical Cookies

Analytical cookies help us improve our website by collecting and reporting information on its usage. We access and process information from these cookies at an aggregate level.