Recent legislation will have a significant impact on the evaluation of personal injury and wrongful death cases across Illinois. For many years, Illinois plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death actions have been entitled to statutory postjudgment interest, currently at a rate of 9% per year. (735 ILCS 5/2-1303(a)). Prejudgment interest, however, has not been available under the Illinois judgment interest statute. That is about to change. The Illinois legislature recently passed Senate Bill 72, the Illinois Prejudgment Interest Act, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, and imposes prejudgment interest on defendants at a rate of 6% per year.
On May 7, a California District Court Judge granted Victory Woodworks, Inc.’s (“Victory”) motion to dismiss all COVID-19 liability claims in plaintiffs Robert and Corby Kuciemba’s amended complaint. Kuciemba et al. v. Victory Woodworks Inc., No. 3:20-cv-09355 (N.D. Cal. 2020). Relying on a novel theory of liability, the Kuciembas alleged that Mr. Kuciemba contracted mild COVID-19 in the course and scope of his employment at Victory, and subsequently passed it on to his wife, who suffered a severe case of COVID-19 with lasting injury. The Kuciembas sought damages from Victory for Mrs. Kuciemba’s injuries related to COVID-19.
Our language around settlements connotes war and peace – in settling we are “buying our peace” or “ceasing hostilities.” The old saw is that a good settlement leaves no one satisfied, but in truth, a good settlement leaves nothing significant left to do in the dispute. In abandoning claims or defenses, we seek a measure of closure. And in obtaining a durable settlement our client can live with, we necessarily rely, to some extent, on the regularity of the underlying proceedings, candor to the court, and some minimal level of good faith in the negotiations.
What happens when that reliance is upended and those expectations are dashed? A recent unpublished California decision provides a cautionary tale. It also stirred memories of a flawed settlement from three decades ago, inspiring this reverie.
When plaintiffs request damages for noneconomic loss such as pain and suffering, courts are split on whether a defendant can require a plaintiff to disclose during discovery how much the plaintiff intends to ask the jury to award in noneconomic damages. A recent decision from a federal district court in Minnesota, however, required the plaintiff to do just that.
In Lewis v. City of Burnsville, 2020 WL 3496990 (D. Minn. June 29, 2020), the defendants asked the plaintiff during discovery to itemize the damages that she was seeking and “produce documentary support for her damages claim.” The plaintiff declined to provide this information, arguing that it was impossible to calculate her noneconomic loss. The magistrate judge, however, ruled that the plaintiff had to disclose how much she was seeking in noneconomic damages “along with the basis for that figure,” if the plaintiff intended to ask the jury for a specific dollar amount (or range) of noneconomic damages at trial.
Consider this: What if plaintiffs could assert a cause of action for negligence without proving, or even pleading, any actual damages? And what if the remedy for this damage-free tort claim were disgorgement of profits allegedly acquired by a breach?
This may seem foreign to American tort lawyers, but for Canadian litigants this cause of action has a name, albeit a confusing one: waiver of tort. It is often pled as an independent, gain-based cause of action, and it is a source of frustration and controversy for our friends in the True North. Indeed, class certification grounded in waiver of tort forces defendants to face the prospect of disgorgement without proof that any class member actually suffered damage, even though these commonly advanced claims have never fully been tried in Canada. Canadian scholars have suggested that this uncertainty has the potential to drive settlement negotiations unfairly in the class context.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Liu v. SEC, No. 18-1501 (June 22, 2020), limiting the SEC’s ability to obtain monetary equitable relief in securities fraud litigation, may seem an odd topic for this blog. But Liu is worth some attention because it may foreshadow an impact on calculation and distribution of monetary awards in consumer fraud class actions. The decision may influence the calculation of disgorgement or restitutionary remedies, and it may signal another hurdle for the controversial judge-made distribution mechanism, cy pres.