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New Laws Increase Time for Filing Asbestos Claims, Reduce Jury Size

Dexter Evans
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Two important bills recently passed the Illinois General Assembly in December and are on the governor’s desk for approval.

Senate Bill 2221 removes the 10-year statute of repose for causes of action for exposure to asbestos.  A statute of repose puts a time limit on when a claim may be filed, no matter when the injury or disease is discovered.  Previously, Illinois law prohibited any asbestos claim that was filed more than 10 years after the alleged exposure.  The importance of this law is obvious.  Persons suffering from an asbestos-related disease often do not manifest symptoms until more than 10 years have elapsed since the exposure.

Assuming Governor Quinn signs both bills as expected, they will become effective as of June 1, 2015.  At first glance, both bills seem to favor injury victims’ rights in Illinois.  Abolishing the statute of repose for asbestos claims prohibits a person injured or killed due to asbestos exposure from being out of luck simply because his or her symptoms did not manifest themselves within a certain timeframe.  Likewise, reducing the size of the jury would seem to streamline the trial process by making jury selection faster while also reducing the number of jurors who would have to come to a unanimous decision.Senate Bill 3075 changes several facets of jury service in Illinois, most importantly with respect to the size of a civil jury.  Previously, the size of a civil jury would be 12 unless another agreement was made between the parties.  Reducing the number from 12 to 6 reduces the cost in having to pay for a juror’s service and also is in line with many other states and federal law which limit jury size to 6.  The decision of the 6 person jury must still be unanimous.  The bill also raises the minimum pay for jury service from $4-$10 per day depending on the county to $25 for the first day and $50 for each subsequent day.  However, the bill also removes the current requirement that counties pay for a juror’s travel expenses, thus offsetting the increase in pay.

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