Rogers v. ImeriAnnotate this Case
In 2009, there was a fatal collision on a rural highway in Effingham County. A young man who was 18 years old and who was not intoxicated was killed. The other driver was a 60-year-old man who was intoxicated and who had been drinking in the named defendant’s tavern, known as Johnny’s Bar and Grill.
The decedent’s parents, the plaintiffs here, filed an action under the Dramshop Act and sought a jury trial. They had already obtained $106,550 in insurance recoveries. The Dramshop Act had a statutory cap on recovery of $130,338.51, and the defendant had insurance for that amount, but his insurer later became insolvent and was liquidated. The Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund then assumed his defense.
The wording of the Guaranty Fund statute is at issue here. It provides that the Fund’s obligation shall be reduced by a plaintiff’s other insurance recoveries. The parties disagreed as to the proper procedure for applying this setoff, but agreed that the question should be certified to the appellate court. There, a ruling was obtained that the reduction should be applied to the jury’s verdict. The Dramshop Act provides for a jury trial.
In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court said that the Fund, now defending the claim, is legally liable only up to the maximum recovery possible under the Dramshop Act, i.e., to a maximum of $130,338.51. The setoff for insurance proceeds should be applied against that maximum liability. The availability of a jury trial is not relevant to this determination, and the amount of a jury verdict cannot expand the Fund’s obligation.
The plaintiffs had theorized that, if the jury award were far in excess of the statutory cap, the setoff could first be applied to the award, and the award could then be brought down to allow them to recover the full amount of the statutory cap itself. This interpretation was rejected by the supreme court here.
The appellate court’s ruling on the certified question was reversed and the cause was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.