Post Authored By: Laura Wibberley
On January 13, 2021, at 3:00 am, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 3360 without any hearing or public comments. HB 3360 imposed a 9% per annum prejudgment interest to be recovered by plaintiffs on all damages set forth in a judgment or verdict. This includes any action brought to recover damages for personal injuries or wrongful death asserting negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, intentional conduct, or strict liability. Per the language, the interest would begin to accrue on the date that the alleged tortfeasor had notice of the injury. Though, this notice provision was not further defined to provide clarity. The bill was passed by both houses and sent to Governor Pritzker on February 4, 2021.
HB 3360 quickly faced sharp opposition from Illinois citizens and business owners who argued that the bill would force defendants in civil cases to face unnecessary financial exposure at a time when most are struggling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics of HB 3360 argued that the bill would also act to deter defendants in civil cases from exercising their right to litigate a cause of action through trial. Healthcare workers and hospitals also strongly opposed the bill. The majority of Illinois hospitals are self-insured and argued that these increased litigation costs would be strongly felt at a time when they could least afford any such additional expenses.
On March 25, 2020, Governor Pritzker vetoed HB 3360 in its entirety. Governor Pritzker specifically cited that the prejudgment interest would be burdensome for hospitals and health care workers. He noted that the negative impact could include an increase of health case costs and the deterrence of physicians from practicing within Illinois, which is an ever-increasing problem for Illinois citizens. Governor Pritzker also criticized the language of the statute as vastly differing from other states which allow for prejudgment interest. Other states specifically exclude future, punitive, or noncompensatory costs from the prejudgment interest costs. Further, other states offered what he believed to be a more reasonable rate structure relating the interest rate to market conditions as opposed to a flat rate.
Governor Pritzker urged the Illinois General Assemble to return and negotiate a compromise that includes stronger protections for hospitals and medical personnel while also encouraging quick resolution of cases in litigation to provide families with relief. Additional legislation is expected which will hopefully afford a more fair and equitable resolution.
About the Author:
Laura Wibberley practices in general litigation with a concentration in the area of medical negligence with the privilege of serving in the defense of hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers. She also serves in the defense of long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities. In order to achieve early and favorable results, Laura is involved in pre-litigation investigations. She has also assisted with presentations at health care facilities designed to educate practitioners on challenges and concerns in the context of litigation. Laura Wibberley graduated Valedictorian and summa cum laude from The John Marshall Law School.