SPRINGFIELD - A bill that would repeal a requirement that jurors understand what are sometimes complex instructions in civil litigation before arriving at verdict, is advancing in the State House.
Supported by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and the progressive Citizen Action Illinois, House Bill 2233 passed in the House Judiciary Committee today, 8-5, along party lines. The bill is sponsored by Democrat Reps. Andre Thapedi of Chicago and Thaddeus Jones of South Holland.
The proposal would eliminate "special interrogatories," which are questions that either side in a case may ask jurors to test whether they understand the instructions given before they begin deliberating.
As frequent targets in civil litigation that often includes complex matters, insurers, medical professionals, manufacturers and other business interests oppose the legislation, saying special interrogatories have served the civil justice system well in Illinois for a long period of time.
They also say that special interrogatories are important because they can break down confusing legal and factual issues, which can help the court be certain a jury understands instructions, as well as be reassuring to jurors that they reached correct conclusions.
John Pastuovic, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said the bill is "not jobs friendly...by any means," as he did about a measure that passed earlier this month that lifts restrictions for when workers suffering from occupational disease, such as asbestos, must file suit against an employer.
He said that his organization had expected a difficult legislative session this year, and "that is bearing out to be the case."
"Elections have consequences and what that means for Illinois residents is an anti business, anti job-growth environment in Springfield," he said.
While legislation supported by the trial bar has an easy path toward passage in both Illinois chambers controlled by Democrats, tort reform proposals supported by Republicans may have little chance of advancing.
For instance, Senate Bill 98, calling for transparency in asbestos bankruptcy claims, would have to clear a committee by March 28 in order to move forward.
Sponsored by Republican Sens. Jason Barickman of Bloomington and Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, their proposal would require that before asbestos claimants file suit, they would have to swear they have finished filing claims with bankruptcy trusts. It would also require claimants to produce all trust claims materials from all law firms that describe how and where exposure to asbestos occurred.