Attorney Mark Mifflin of the Giffin Winning firm in Springfield.
Edwardsville attorney Jeff Hebrank testified against a bill that would expand recovery for victims under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act during a House Judiciary Committee meeting in Springfield Wednesday.
Hebrank, who is president-elect of the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel (IDC), said House Bill 1798 would allow beneficiaries of a person killed in an accident to claim damages for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering.
"For nearly 150 years we have never permitted the benficiaries of a decendent killed in an accident to get grief and sorrow," Hebrank said. "The reason is simple. They are not the tort victim. The decedent was."
The committee voted in favor of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association-backed bill along party lines 8-6. State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) was among the "yes" votes. Hoffman is an attorney of counsel with the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River.
Hebrank said the state's wrongful death statute is designed to compensate families of a decedent for future pecuniary damages that the decedent would have spent on them -- as a means of helping spouses and children.
"The decedent already collected his medical bills, pain and suffering, disfigurement, etc. before he died," Hebrank said.
He said the Supreme Court expanded wrongful death damages to include loss of consortium, love, affection and guidance.
"Now plaintiff lawyers want grief and sorrow," Hebrank said.
He indicated that if the bill were enacted it wouldn't be much of a stretch for family members of personal injury victims to claim grief and sorrow.
Hebrank said this type of dramatic expansion will succeed in "making plaintiff lawyers richer, a small minority of people multi-millionaires, and the majority of working people in the poor house by jobs leaving Illinois or because of higher insurance premiums."
The bill would also undo the comparative fault aspect of the Wrongful Death Act, he said.
"They (trial lawyers) want to pass a 50 percent liable family's share to the other family members so that they get a windfall of money that they never were entitled to under the law," he said.