Illinois Circuit Court Finds Illinois Pre-judgment Interest Statute Unconstitutional

On May 27, 2022, Judge Marcia Maras of the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled that the Illinois Pre-Judgment Interest Act is unconstitutional in Hyland v. Advocate Health and Hosp. Corp., Case No: 2017-L-3541. The Illinois Prejudgment Interest Act (Illinois Senate Bill 72 which amended 735 ILCS 5/2-1303) (the “Act”) provides for prejudgment interest to be awarded in all personal injury or wrongful death cases caused by negligence, willful and wanton conduct, intentional conduct, or strict liability. The interest begins to accumulate on the date the action is filed and accrues at a 6% per annum rate on the entire judgment, minus any punitive damages, sanctions, or attorney fees. The Act provides for a reduced prejudgment interest amount if a written settlement offer was made within 12 months of the filing date of the action and the plaintiff rejected or did not respond to the offer.

The plaintiff in Hyland brought a medical negligence claim after receiving care at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, filling suit on April 7, 2017. On July 1, 2021, the date that the Act became effective, the defendant filed a Motion to Declare the Act Invalid Under the Illinois Constitution. Further challenges to the law’s constitutionality were consolidated before Judge Marcia Maras in the Circuit Court of Cook County. On May 27, 2022, the court found the Act unconstitutional on two grounds. First, the court said the Act improperly deprives the jury of an essential function – the determination of damages. Second, the court determined that the law violates the Illinois Constitution’s ban on special legislation because it only applies to defendants in personal injury and wrongful death claims, and thus wrongfully discriminates against different groups of defendants in tort claims.

Judge Maras’ ruling, being entered at the trial-court level, is not binding on other Illinois courts. However, defendants in personal injury and wrongful death cases across the state of Illinois should consider using Judge Maras’s ruling to challenge the Act until the Illinois Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality.

In the meantime, if you have questions related to Judge Maras’s ruling, please reach out to Doug Nieder.

Doug would like to thank Austin Schorfheide for his contributions to this article.