Wednesday, March 7, 2012
In addition to the provisions of section 8–1901 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/8–1901), evidence of furnishing or offering or promising to pay medical, hospital, or similar expenses occasioned by an injury is not admissible to prove liability for the injury.
But unlike its federal counterpart, Illinois Rule of Evidence 409 only took effect on January 1, 2011. But does it apply retroactively? That was the question addressed by the recent opinion of the Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, in its recent opinion in Lambert v. Coonrod, 2012 WL 697855 (Ill.App. 4 Dist. 2012).
In Coonrod, Richard Wayne Lambert and Billie Jo Lambert filed a two-count complaint against defendant, Tim Coonrod, to recover damages for injuries sustained by Richard at Coonrod's residence. After the accident at Coonrod's residence, Coonrod made a statement to Billie Jo that he was sorry about the incident and would take care of the expenses. The court found that Coonrod's statement that he was sorry about the incident was admissible but testimony about payment of medical expenses was not.
After the jury found in favor of Coonrod, the plaintiffs appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court erred by excluding evidence of Coonrod's offer to pay medical expenses. In their brief on appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the newly effective Rule 409 did not apply because Richard's accident took place in October 2008 and the first complaint was filed August 2009. The appellate court disagreed, finding that the
plaintiffs offer[ed] no support for their contention. The supreme court stated the rules became effective on January 1, 2011, and nowhere did the court state that they did not apply to cases that were pending but had not yet gone to trial. Moreover, a change in a rule affecting matters of procedure, such as a rule of evidence, and not substantive rights, applies retroactively to pending cases....Rule 409 involves matters of evidence, a procedural issue, and thus the rule applied here since plaintiffs' trial took place after the rule's effective date.