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State passes bill lifting 25-year statute of repose for occupational disease lawsuits

Madison County Record

Friday, March 15, 2019  |  Article  |  By Ann Maher

Asbestos (48) , Tort Reform (27) Hoffman, Jay--State House, 113 , Schimpf, Paul--State Senate, 58 , Stuart, Katie--State House, 112
The state has passed a bill that lifts restrictions for when workers suffering from occupational disease, such as asbestos, must file suit against an employer.

Supported by the trial bar and sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, Senate Bill 1596 passed in the House on Thursday afternoon by a 70-40-1 vote, along party lines. It passed in the Senate on March 6 in a 41-16-1 vote, mostly along party lines. State Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo was the only Republican to vote in favor of the measure in committee and in the full chamber.

Reps. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) and Katie Stuart (D-Collinsville) were among chief sponsors in the House.

Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the bill, and when he does it will take effect immediately.

When enacted, the measure will change provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act and Workers' Occupational Disease Act that had imposed a 25-year statute of repose for occupational injury and a three-year statute for occupational disease. It will effectively overturn the 2015 Illinois Supreme Court decision in Folta v. Ferro Engineering that time-barred a worker from bringing a lawsuit against a former employer 41 years after he worked for the business.

Opponents of the bill included the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL), insurers and major manufacturers.

John Pastuovic, president of the ICJL, said in an earlier interview that the legislation essentially creates unlimited liability in the state's civil court system.

"It also has the effect of eliminating insurance coverage and driving more businesses out of state and more businesses into bankruptcy," he said.