Gov. J.B. Pritzker is facing a decision on legislation that will either anger a group of those he’s politically allied with or others who represent the front line in the pandemic response.
Illinois lawmakers sent an amended House Bill 3364 to Pritzker on Feb. 4.
Should he sign it, personal injury lawsuits in the state would be subject to an annual prejudgement interest of 9%. That means a potential civil monetary judgment would see a required increase in the payout for any time that passes between when the lawsuit is filed and the date of a potential settlement.
Prejudgment interest would represent a major shift in trial dynamics in Illinois and, according to Paul Gaynor, Healthcare Heroes Illinois spokesman, a devastating blow to the state’s front lines in the COVID-19 pandemic response.
“Doctors, nurses and first responders have risked their lives to protect patients since day one of this pandemic. In return for their steady, selfless service, the General Assembly passed a bill that would place an even greater financial burden on health care providers,” Gaynor said. “Gov. Pritzker needs to stand up for all those providers who responded to the call of duty by vetoing this lame-duck legislation that was designed to enrich the TV lawyers who are seeking to profit off the pandemic.”
Pritzker’s legal immunity protections for health care workers in hospitals and nursing homes expired in June. Since then, trial attorneys have begun spending significant sums of money advertising their services in wrongful COVID-19 lawsuits.
The governor’s office has said it’s concerned with the financial ramifications of the bill.
The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, a powerful force in Illinois politics and prominent supporter of Illinois Democrats, says the legislation simply places Illinois in line with the majority of other states.
“Stalling and delaying resolution of meritorious claims exacerbates the harm suffered by the wrongfully injured,” ITLA President Larry Rogers Jr. said in a Jan. 13 statement. “Justice that is delayed is justice denied.”
Rogers added that HB 3360 would mean defendants and insurers will no longer benefit from delaying a resolution of meritorious injury cases that will eventually go to trial.
Lawmakers sent the bill to Pritzker on Feb. 4. He has 60 days to consider it.