Lewis v. Lead Industries AssociationAnnotate this Case
In a class-action lawsuit against former manufacturers of white lead pigments, the plaintiffs sought to recover the costs of blood-lead screening, which their children underwent as required by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (410 ILCS 45/1). The complaint excluded any claim for physical injury. The class was certified in 2008 as the parents or guardians of children who, in 1995-2008, were between six months and six years old and lived in zip codes identified by the Illinois Department of Public Health as ‘high risk’ areas and had a blood test for lead toxicity. The circuit court granted the defendants summary judgment on a civil conspiracy count, noting that the named plaintiffs had not established any economic loss because third parties, Medicaid and private insurance, had paid for the tests. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that parents are liable for the expenses of their children and that the collateral source rule applied.
The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Plaintiffs who do not suffer any economic loss cannot maintain a tort action that is based on a claim that alleges solely an economic injury and no physical injury or property damage. The plaintiffs were required to establish actual economic loss as an essential element of their claim of intentional misrepresentation, underlying the civil conspiracy count. The Family Expense Act cannot be extended to create a liability or expense where one never arose, to allow a parent to sue where there was no underlying personal injury claim filed on behalf of the child. As a substantive rule of damages, the collateral source rule bars a defendant from reducing a plaintiff’s compensatory award by the amount the plaintiff received from the collateral source; it is unrelated to whether a plaintiff has an actionable injury.