Business executive Edward Reicin is currently a consultant with MPC Containment, Ltd., a firm he formerly served as president and a director prior to its acquisition by a private equity fund. Also an attorney, Edward Reicin has written on the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.
Enacted in 1853, the Illinois Wrongful Death Act allows people to file a suit under common law against a person whose negligent or wrongful actions caused the death of a family member. It enables relatives of the deceased to receive pecuniary but not punitive damages from the perpetrator. To establish a claim of wrongful death, plaintiffs must show that the defendant had a duty to the decedent, that he or she breached that responsibility, and that they deserve monetary compensation under the act.
In 2007, Illinois’ Wrongful Death Act underwent a significant revision, when it was amended to allow surviving spouses and next of kin to obtain damages for “grief, sorrow, and mental suffering.” Prior to this change, heirs could only obtain awards on the merits of relationship-based claims, such as loss of consortium and how much the decedent could have contributed to the family during his or her lifetime. However, the legislature did not describe what constitutes these elements, which has led to difficulties in the courts. Attorneys have responded to this lack of clarity by putting lay and expert witnesses on the stand to testify about the plaintiff’s reaction to the death and using results from different jurisdictions to establish award precedents.