Courtrooms in Illinois will begin to see a new makeup of juries soon, as effective June 1, 2015, all jury cases shall be tried by a jury of six. Previously, cases in which alleged damages exceeded $50,000 were tried by a jury of twelve, while in cases where alleged damages were lower than $50,000, either party could demand a jury of twelve. The bill was signed into law by outgoing Illinois Governor Pat Quinn last December. Businesses with potential exposure to litigation in Illinois courts should take note, and anticipate potential impact to their litigation.
A smaller jury often favors the plaintiff, as the fewer jurors the plaintiff must convince at trial, the easier it can be to obtain a favorable verdict. However, a smaller jury could also result in less time being spent on voir dire and reduced trial costs for both sides. Regardless of the effect, this change in Illinois law further emphasizes the critical importance of voir dire and selecting the right jury for your case.
Last winter, a last-minute Amendment to an otherwise unrelated proposed bill (SB3075, purportedly amending the Juvenile Court Act of 1987) added language providing that all jury cases shall be tried by a jury of six and specifically deleted language providing the opportunity for any party to demand a jury of twelve. For all cases filed prior to June 1, 2015, a party may still demand a jury of twelve provided that the proof of payment for a twelve member jury is provided. Constitutional challenges to this new law are expected and Polsinelli's Toxic and Mass Tort team will continue to monitor and advise of ongoing developments
Also last December, Governor Quinn signed into law Public Act-1131, which amended the Illinois Construction Statute of Repose to eliminate its protection in asbestos exposure cases and which also takes effect on June 1, 2015. For more information about the Illinois construction statute of repose, please see our previous alert on the topic.
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If you have concerns about how the new amendment to the Illinois construction statute of repose may affect your business, please contact the authors or your Polsinelli attorney.