What we’re watching: Illinois law relating to punitive damages

What we’re watching: Illinois law relating to punitive damages Thumb

A bill to amend Illinois’ Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/1) to allow for the recovery of punitive damages in wrongful death actions has been filed in the Illinois Legislature. Rep. La Shawn K. Ford of Chicago pre-filed House Bill 35 in December, prior to the January start of the 103rd General Assembly. The bill was referred to the Rules Committee after its first reading, then to the Judiciary – Civil Committee, and assigned to the Civil Procedure and Tort Liability Subcommittee. On March 10, 2023, House Bill 35 was re-referred to the Rules Committee, and has seen no additional activity. Rep. Ford was a chief sponsor of an identical bill during the Legislature’s last session which did not advance after it was re-referred to the Rules Committee. 

House Bill 35 seeks to counter a long line of Illinois cases which hold that punitive damages are not permitted in wrongful death or survival actions absent specific statutory authority or very strong equitable reasons. Mattyasovszky v. West Towns Bus Co., 61 Ill. 2d 31, 330 N.E.2d 509 (1975); Froud v. Celotex Corp., 98 Ill. 2d 324, 456 N.E.2d 131 (1983); Marston v. Walgreen Co., 389 Ill. App. 3d 337, 907 N.E.2d 851 (1st Dist. 2009).

DeHay & Elliston will continue to monitor Illinois House Bill 35 and other proposed legislation that may impact our clients.


Apr 19, 2023
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Jennifer L. Green
Phone: 214.210.2416