On August 11, 2023, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed House Bill 219 into law, now expanding recoverable damages under the Wrongful Death Act and Probate Act of 1975. HB 219 was introduced into the 103rd General Assembly of the Illinois House of Representatives earlier this year to permit the recovery of punitive damages in civil actions brought by personal representatives of a decedent to recover where the general criteria for punitive damages have been met, in addition to recovery for grief, sorrow and mental suffering currently available.
Scope of the Amendment
The amendment does not limit the amount of damages that can be awarded, thus providing a plaintiff with the opportunity to exponentially increase recovery in a wrongful death action. The bill as signed applies to all cases filed on or after the effective date of the statute. Legal malpractice claims, medical malpractice claims, and claims against state and local governments are exempt from recovery of punitive damages.
With the plaintiffs’ bar now acquiring the statutory authority to recover both compensatory and punitive damages, Illinois soon will confront the concerns expressed by opponents of the bill, including what, if any, ramifications it will have on premiums, litigation and claims costs, and business viability.