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Illinois Legislature Overrides Governor Rauner’s Veto and Raises Damages Caps on Court of Claims Awards

The Illinois House voted Nov. 27 to increase the cap on damages made in the Illinois Court of Claims to $2 million in a 71-36 vote overriding Governor Rauner’s veto.

The Illinois Senate already had voted to override the veto, so the bill is now law. The change comes in response to the tragic deaths from Legionnaires’ disease of several Illinois residents of Veterans’ Homes. In particular, the state had been criticized for its slow response to multiple outbreaks at the home in Quincy. Previous law allowed families to receive an arbitrary $100,000 from the Court of Claims, an amount set 45 years ago and tied for the lowest figure in the country.

The bill was a compromise from what some state legislators had said should have been no limits but instead allowing a jury to determine the damages.

Legionella is a water-borne bacteria which, when inhaled, can cause the sometimes fatal, flu-like illness known as Legionnaire’s. Since July, 2015, some 14 residents at the Quincy Veterans Home have died due to Legionnaire’s disease and the reported state’s mismanagement during at least four outbreaks. Rauner and his administration came under severe criticism in the past year for his office’s reported knowledge of the outbreaks but failing to alert the public.

The new law is retroactive to July 1, 2015, and applies to any Court of Claims actions that occurred since that date, and the amount may be increased annually based upon the Consumer Price index that is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. The bill that is now law is S.B. 2841.