Illinois Supreme Court Upholds Wrongful Death Verdict, 8.13 Million – Ready v. United/Goedecke, Inc.

In a second Illinois Supreme Court opinion regarding this case, the court handed down its opinion in Ready v. United/Goedecke, Inc., No. 108910, an important case distinguishing fault apportionment.

The court’s first opinion, Ready I, held that Illinois Code of Civil Procedure Section 2-1117 did not permit the apportionment of fault to defendants who had already settled in the Illinois wrongful death case. Following that Supreme Court decision (Ready I), the case was remanded to the Illinois Appellate Court to consider the defendant’s sole proximate cause defense. The appellate court decided that the lower court had erred in refusing to admit evidence of the conduct of the settling defendants. However, the Illinois Appellate Court did not reach the issue of defendant’s entitlement to a jury instruction on the point.

In this opinion, Ready II, the Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the Circuit Court of Cook County was wrong both in excluding the evidence of the actions of the settled defendant, but also it erred in refusing to instruct the jury on sole proximate cause by not giving the second paragraph of Illinois Pattern Instruction, 12.04.

In the underlying case, the jury had found United/Goedecke negligent and entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. That award was later reduced to $8.137 million. The $9 million verdict was reduced because of the setoffs of other settling defendants.

The basis of the appeals was that the trial court had erred by excluding evidence that would have shown that the accident could have been prevented by another defendant. United/Goedecke also argued that evidence about another defendant’s failure to follow its own safety manual would have shown to the jury that the settling defendants’ conduct was the sole proximate cause of the incident.

In Ready II, the 12 page unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald indicated that although the trial court had erred in excluding evidence, it was harmless error.

“No reasonable jury would have concluded that United was not a proximate cause of the accident,” Fitzgerald wrote.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois construction accident lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Mount Prospect, Downers Grove, Oak Park, and Evergreen Park.

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