Punitive Damages Cannot Be Awarded Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act Where the Plaintiff is Deceased.

Tony PicPlaintiffs bringing lawsuits against nursing homes under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act (NHCA) have several advantages over plaintiff’s bringing lawsuits against other types of health care providers.   For example, section 2-622 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure requires the filing of an affidavit in medical malpractice cases stating there is “reasonable and meritorious cause for filing such an action,” but NHCA claims are exempt from this requirement.  In addition, plaintiff’s in NHCA cases are entitled to recover their attorneys’ fees. 

However, in Vincent v. Alden-Park Strathmoor, Inc., the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that punitive damages cannot be awarded under the NHCA where the plaintiff is deceased.  Generally, a plaintiff can recover punitive damages if the defendant actions constitute willful and wanton misconduct.  But, a plaintiff’s right to recover punitive damages expires upon his death.  The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association filed an amicus curie brief in Vincent seeking to make an exception under the NHCA.  The Court refused to oblige, stating  “We note simply that such arguments are properly directed to the General Assembly, not this court.”

 

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