As I write this, my last President’s Page column, I only have three weeks left in my term. I approach the end of my term as your President with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am very happy that I am about to get the prized Past President designation; on the other hand, I will miss the job. I have enjoyed serving our membership and clients. This has been one of the most treasured experiences of my professional career.
We have had a busy and eventful year. We worked hard on elections and had successful results. Most importantly, Governor Rauner was shown the door after a tumultuous four years in ofﬁ ce. We have updated our venerable Complaint Book, which I encourage you to check out. Legislatively, we have had a successful year. We introduced several bills designed to ﬁ x particular problems and to improve our ability to represent our clients. Here are the highlights:
1. During immediate Past President John Scanlon’s year, he worked tirelessly on a bill to increase the limits on Court of Claims cases. This past November, the bill became law when the General Assembly overrode former Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto. The former woefully inadequate limit of $100,000 has been increased to $2,000,000. Thanks again, John, for your hard work on this bill.
2. Senate Bill 1596. This bill allows victims of exposure to toxic substances in the workplace who are diagnosed with latent diseases after the 25-year time bar imposed by the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Occupational Disease Act to pursue justice in Illinois’ courts. This legislation was in response to the Illinois Supreme Court’s Folta decision. Governor Pritzker signed this bill into law on May 17, 2019. Past President John Cooney worked hard to make this happen. Thanks again, John.
3. Senate Bill 1571. This bill repeals the part of the medical malpractice reform act dealing with periodic payments of settlements and verdicts. As I write this column, this bill has passed both the House and Senate and is on the way to Governor Pritzker for his consideration. Past President Keith Hebeisen testiﬁ ed in both the House and Senate to explain why this section of the Act was not needed. Thanks, Keith.
4. House Bill 2472. This bill addresses the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. In summary, the bill clariﬁ es that the Consumer Fraud Act does apply to the provision of products or services that cause bodily injury or death. As many of you know, some trial courts have ruled otherwise. This bill has passed both the House and Senate and is on the way to Governor Pritzker for his action. Board member Steve Tillery and his partner, Bob King, provided invaluable guidance on this bill. Thanks again, Steve and Bob.
5. House Bill 2233. This bill has turned out to be the most contentious bill that we introduced. It is designed to change the way special interrogatories are used. Currently, the law mandates that a special interrogatory must be given if one is submitted in proper form. There are far too many examples of jury verdicts being set aside because the answer to the special interrogatory was inconsistent with the general verdict. The bill, which has passed both the House and Senate and on the way to Governor Pritzker for his consideration, makes the giving of a special interrogatory discretionary with the court. It allows for a litigant to explain to the jury how to answer it consistently with the general verdict and the implications of an inconsistent answer, which we could not do previously. In the event of an inconsistent answer, the trial judge can instruct the jury to deliberate further. If there is still an inconsistency, then the trial court must order a new trial instead of having the special interrogatory control. Larry Rogers, Jr., our current Second Vice-President, dedicated much time and effort on this bill. Thanks, Larry.
As you can see, this is a team effort. No one person can do it alone. I have had the beneﬁ t of a very skilled and knowledgeable Executive Committee. Given our legislative agenda for this session, we have spent a lot of hours together reﬁ ning the issues and language of our bills. This job cannot be done without a strong and involved Executive Committee, and I thank each one of them.
Our past, current, and future presidents maintain a high degree of involvement to ensure that our practice improves our ability to represent our clients. In addition, our organization is blessed with many stalwart members whose passion for righting the wrongs done to their clients is both impressive and inspiring. We would be lost without their involvement.
I have spoken many times about Jim Collins and the entire staff at ITLA Headquarters in Springﬁ eld. We would not have the success we have had this year and past years without the insight, knowledge, and skill of Jim Collins, Tim McLean and Katie Davis. Our intern, Sara Farwick, is learning from the best in the business. They are deeply respected by the legislators. Legislators listen to what they have to say. Their knowledge and respect truly help our practices. The rest of the staff, Linda Benedict, Paula Allen, Angela Vincent, Tracey Tate, Kevilee Burge, and Audra Sturgeon are equally valuable. Without the hard work of each one, our organization would not operate nearly as smoothly as it does. Plus, they are a lot of fun to hang with. Thanks to you all!
Finally, I want to thank the membership for allowing me to serve as your President. I have enjoyed discussing ideas to improve our organization and our practices. I once again encourage all of you to become more involved. The more involved you are, the more rewarding your membership is.
As I ﬁnish my term, Tony Romanucci is gearing up for his own. On June 7, Tony will bring his energy and vision to this position. Having had the pleasure of knowing and working with Tony for many years, I am conﬁ dent that he is going to be a great President. Please give Tony all the support that you have given me over the last year. Thank you all!
Mark D. Prince, President
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Piece originally published in the May 2019 volume of Vested Interest, the official newsletter of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.