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  4.  » NEW SUPREME COURT DECISION ENCOURAGES SETTLEMENT BY NEGLIGENT PARTIES

NEW SUPREME COURT DECISION ENCOURAGES SETTLEMENT BY NEGLIGENT PARTIES

In Antonicelli v. Rodriguez, the Illinois Supreme Court found that a Cook County judge was correct in allowing the Defendant, Daniel Rodriguez, to settle for the limits of his policy, $20,000, and to not allow the driver of a semi-truck and his companies that were also involved in the crash to force him to pay more.

The case arose out of a three-car collision in Naperville on Interstate 88. The Plaintiff, Angela Antonicelli, was a passenger in a car traveling eastbound on I-88. Defendant, Karl Browder, was also traveling eastbound behind Antonicelli’s vehicle. Browder was driving a semi-truck for Defendant companies, Chicago Tube and Iron Company and Trillium Staffing, d/b/a Trillium Drivers Solutions. At the time of the crash, Defendant Rodriguez was under the influence of cocaine and traveling westbound. Defendant Rodriguez made an improper U-turn through the median on I-88 and collided with Plaintiff’s car which caused it to rotate clockwise. Defendant Browder was unable to stop his semi-truck and slammed into the passenger side door of Plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff suffered severe permanent injuries as a result of the crash.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging negligence against Defendants Rodriguez, Browder and Chicago Tube and Iron Company and Trillium Staffing, d/b/a Trillium Drivers Solutions. Defendant Rodriguez offered the $20,000 limits of his insurance coverage as settlement and Plaintiff entered into a settlement with Rodriguez for the limits of his policy. Defendant Rodriguez filed a motion for a finding of a good-faith settlement. The remaining Browder Defendants refused to settle and pay full and fair compensation for Plaintiff’s injuries. They filed a counterclaim for contribution against Defendant Rodriguez and argued that his conduct was intentional rather than negligent and that his settlement should not be found to be in good faith. The trial court found that the $20,000 settlement with Defendant Rodriguez for his $20,000 insurance policy limits was made in good faith and dismissed the non-settling Browder Defendants counterclaim for contribution as barred by good faith. The trial court also allowed a $20,000 set-off for any future judgment rendered in Plaintiff’s favor against the Browder Defendants.

The Browder Defendants alleged on appeal that the trial court erred in finding a good-faith settlement in that the Contribution Act did not did not permit a finding of a good-faith settlement. The appellate court affirmed the holding of the trial court. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the settlement between the Plaintiff and Defendant Rodriguez was made in made in good faith. Specifically, it found that the Contribution Act promoted settlement by providing that a defendant who enters a good-faith settlement with the plaintiff is discharged from any contribution liability to a non-settling defendant. The only limitation the Contribution Act placed on a settlement was that the settlement be in “good faith.” The trial court’s finding of good faith was supported by the Defendant Rodriguez’s offer of his policy limits and that his insurance company would have to pay its attorneys to continue the case despite offering their policy limits. The Court also considered that no evidence was presented showing any wrongful conduct, collusion or fraud in the settlement between Plaintiff and Defendant Rodriguez and the trial court allowed a $20,000 set-off for the Browder defendants. Moreover, the Browder Defendants failed to show that Defendant Rodriguez acted intentionally in causing injuries to the Plaintiff.

The ruling in Antonicelli encourages defendants to accept responsibility for their negligent actions that injure others and to fully and fairly compensate the victims of negligence. Here at the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid, we ensure that every defendant is held accountable for their negligent actions that injure our clients and that each defendant fully and fairly compensates our clients for their injuries.

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