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Illinois law changes effective 6/1/2015
As some of his last acts in office, former Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signed into law two rather controversial pieces of legislation. First, he signed into law the recently enacted Public Act 98-1131 (Senate Bill 2221), which effectively precludes defendants in asbestos lawsuits from raising the Illinois Construction Statute of Repose as a potential defense to suits involving past construction work. The Construction Statute of Repose previously and currently states:
(b) No action based upon tort, contract or otherwise may be brought against any person for an act or omission of such person in the design, planning, supervision, observation or management of construction, or construction of an improvement to real property after 10 years have elapsed from the time of such act or omission. However, any person who discovers such act or omission prior to expiration of 10 years from the time of such act or omission shall in no event have less than 4 years to bring an action as provided in subsection (a) of this Section. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, contract actions against a surety on a payment or performance bond shall be commenced, if at all, within the same time limitation applicable to the bond principal. 735 ILCS 5/13-214(b)
However, the bill now has expressly eliminated asbestos exposure claims from the matters that would have previously been barred by the act with the following subsection added to the statute:
(f) Subsection (b) does not apply to an action that is based on personal injury, disability, disease, or death resulting from the discharge into the environment of asbestos.
Until recently, court interpretations of when the statute applied had varied but generally, contractor defendants and those involved in the construction process in asbestos lawsuits had the possibility of raising a Statute of Repose defense. With the passage of this bill, however, such defendants will no longer have that possibility.
Additionally, former Governor Quinn also signed into law, Public Act 98-1132 (Senate Bill 3075) which reduces the number of required jurors in civil trials to 6 (down from 12). While no one can know with certainty, it is likely that the reduced size of the jury will lead to more plaintiff verdicts given that plaintiffs will now have fewer jurors to convince.
These new laws will only apply to matters filed on or after June 1, 2015, and thus the statute of repose is still currently available for any matters already on file before then, and parties will also still be able to request a jury of 12. Constitutional challenges to these new laws are anticipated and there is some question as to whether our new Governor will act to change these new laws.