Law Alert: Illinois Legislature Passes Bill to Allow Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits - Maron Marvel
Articles and Publications

Law Alert: Illinois Legislature Passes Bill to Allow Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

June 5, 2023

Dan Alexander


Illinois House Bill 219 has passed both houses of the Illinois legislature and has been sent to Governor Pritzker for signature. If he signs, Illinois will no longer be one of the sixteen states that does not allow for punitive damages in wrongful death cases. Punitive damages are meant to punish defendants and deter reckless actions that lead to injury and/or death. Notably, legal malpractice claims, medical malpractice claims, and claims against state and local governments are exempt from such punitive damages claims under House Bill 219.

The bill is an initiative of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Illinois Trial Lawyers Association President Pat Salvi Jr. argued to a Senate panel earlier this week that allowing punitive damages only when a victim survives is “a defect in the law.” Business groups say that increasing opportunities for punitive damages in Illinois could deter companies from moving to, or expanding, in Illinois due to increased liability. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Dan Ugaste argued that allowing punitive damages in wrongful death claims could end up shutting down businesses “because of one or two bad actors.” He said that without a cap some companies may not survive paying out a large jury award.

Text of the Amendment to IL Wrongful Death Act (amendments underlined)

The death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages, including punitive damages when applicable, in respect thereof, then and in every such case the person who or company or corporation which would have been liable if death had not ensued, shall be liable to an action for damages, including punitive damages when applicable, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, and although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount in law to felony. Nothing in this Section affects the applicability of Section 2-1115 of the Code of Civil Procedure or Section 2-102 or 2-213 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. Punitive damages are not available in action for healing art malpractice or legal practice or in an action against the State or unit of local government or an employee of a unit of local government in his or her official capacity. The changes made to this Section by this amendatory Act of the 103rd general Assembly apply to actions filed on or after the effective date of this amendatory Act.

About the Blog

Our defense litigation attorneys will provide you updates and commentary on risk management and general liability issues impacting business. To receive updates directly to your inbox, click here.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication should not be considered legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. In some jurisdictions, this is considered advertising. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.


related services

Etiam porta sem malesuada magna mollis euismod. Nullam quis risus eget urna mollis ornare vel eu leo. Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper.