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Juries Matter. Judge Wisely.
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Juries matter
but when juries are not told the whole story they are unable to
Judge Wisely
.

 

 

Illinois is not fair for the lawyers who represent defendants in Illinois and their clients. The law may give plaintiffs the technical burden of proof, but too often the playing field is tilted in their favor. IDC’s core values include promoting the fair, expeditious and equitable resolution of disputes. Too often, the resolution of disputes is not fair, expeditious, or equitable. Too often, the law is skewed in favor of plaintiffs.

 

The 50% Rule

Juries are told about the effect of finding a plaintiff more than 50% at fault, but not told about the effect on a defendant's joint and several liability if they are found to be more than 25% at fault. There is no legitimate reason for this distinction, beyond the raw plaintiff-favorable politics at work when these laws were enacted. There is no good reason for the jury to be told about one but not the other.

Several Liability and Comparative Fault

When determining a plaintiff’s comparative fault, the fault of all parties involved in an incident is considered. However, the same determination is not used when assigning the fault of a defendant. At the time of trial, only those who remain as defendants are assigned fault. This determination excludes settling parties and leaves those who remain as defendants left “holding the bag” for the fault of all.

Consider, for example, the idea that a drunk driver with a small insurance policy and no personal assets should be able to settle out of a suit and leave a minimally at fault defendant holding the bag, with the jury not even being allowed to consider the drunk driver's percentage of fault. This is the complete opposite of fairness. Do you think this is an extreme, far-fetched hypothetical dreamed up to make a point? Unfortunately, it isn’t. Consider Ozik v. Gramins 345 Ill. App. 3d 502, 799 N.E.2d 871 (1st Dist. 2003), where this precise fact pattern occurred.

Medical Bills

When your health care provider submits a bill, the fees charged are often reduced by Medicare, Medicaid or other means. However, in Illinois, plaintiffs are allowed to submit into evidence invoices which reflect the amount originally billed. This is the amount billed, but it is not the amount that a plaintiff has paid. Holding the defendant responsible for the original billed amount is unfair to the defendant and rewards the plaintiff for a loss that was not suffered.

Seat Belts

In many jurisdictions, the failure of a plaintiff to wear a seat belt is admissible as evidence either to show comparative fault or lack of proximate cause. That was the law in Illinois too, until the Illinois General Assembly enacted the mandatory seat belt law. Somehow, a sentence was added to the statute barring admission of evidence that plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt.

 

These rules, and many more like them, are unjust. They turn the burden of proof and presumption of innocence on their head. Too often, principles of partisan politics, not justice, are the reason that such rules exist.

IDC members work in the system every day, and we remain committed to seriously working with all interested groups to make the system more efficient and effective for everyone. But dialog is a two-way street – it requires give and take and appreciation of the interests of all sides.

 

Juries matter
and should be told the whole story so that they may

Judge Wisely.
 

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