On May 19, 2023, the Illinois senate passed SB 1748, also known as the “speedy trial bill.”
Posted on May 22, 2023 at 9:00 AM by Jennifer Johnson
The legislation amends 735 ILCS 5/2-1007.1 and now mandates preferential trial settings in cases where the plaintiff, or in a death case, the surviving spouse or next of kin, has reached the age of 67. Previously, the age was 70 and only applied to a living plaintiff. The new legislation would now allow an expedited trial setting in wrongful death claims in those instances and where there is a showing of physical or financial hardship. Upon motion, the Court must allow a trial date within one year of hearing on the motion.
The bill provides that the trial date will only apply to those parties named at the time of the motion and had notice of the hearing. The bill also offers mechanisms for continuance. Any party can move for a trial continuance, but only up to six months and only once.
While this law may be viewed as placing undue pressure on defendants to prepare for trial in a short time span, there may also be an unintended impact on the plaintiffs’ bar. Defendants in the largest toxic tort dockets in Illinois already face master case management orders that allow for expedited trial settings, so this amendment may not present a significant impact there. It is common for plaintiffs’ counsel, after obtaining an expedited trial, to seek continuances to conduct further discovery. The new legislation could affect plaintiffs’ ability to do so, resulting in cases being dismissed or summary judgment motions being granted if sufficient evidence is not produced in time for the accelerated trial. Or it may become routine for the allowed six-month continuances to be granted. The long-term impact on large toxic tort dockets bears watching.
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