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Attorney James J. Morici, Jr. Pens Article About How Settling Defendants are Kept Off Verdict Forms

Morici, Longo & Associates attorney James J. Morici, Jr., a member of the Justinian Society of Lawyers and frequent contributor to the Justinian Society Newsletter, recently published an article discussing a case handled by the firm.

In the case, Antonicelli v. Rodriguez, 2018 IL 121943, our client sued two defendants for their involvement in a car crash that resulted in serious injuries. The first was a drunk driver crossed over the median and crashed into our client’s car, and the second was a truck driver who failed to come to a complete stop and also crashed into our client’s car.

The drunk driver settled with our clients for $20,000, their policy limit. She truck driver did not settle, and filed a counter-claim against the drunk driver alleging an intentional tort. Because the $20,000 insurance policy was the drunk driver’s only real asset, the trial court issued a good-faith finding on the settlement and shut down the counterclaim.

The truck driver then appealed the decision, claiming that the trial court erred by not addressing whether or not the drunk driver was an intentional tortfeasor and for failing to consider their rights under section 2-1117 of the Joint Liability Statute.

For years, Illinois courts have held that in cases where some defendants settle in good faith while others do not, only the non-settling defendant remains liable. Courts ensure equitable apportionment of damages by allowing a set-off for the amount settled. This precedent both encourages parties to settle, and ensures an equitable split of the damages between the tortfeasors.

In this case, the court ruled that the fact the drunk driver was an intentional tortfeasor did not matter because they settled in good faith. This decision is important to trial lawyers throughout the state because it means that defendants who settle are kept off verdict forms, and juries cannot apportion any fault to them.

However, this may change in the future. During the Illinois Supreme Court’s analysis of the case, Justice Robert R. Thomas called into question whether or not settling defendants should appear on the verdict form, and several other Justices agreed that the settling defendant should be included in the form.

The full article was published in the Justinian Society Newsletter. At Morici, Longo & Associates, we are committed to providing our clients with the knowledgeable representation they deserve. For the past two decades, we have successfully secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients. Give us a call at (312) 779-0366 to speak with one of our Chicago personal injury lawyers over the phone, or fill out our online form today to schedule a no-cost and confidential consultation.