Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Allocation of Wrongful Death Settlement Proceeds Among Surviving Family Members

There are few things more devastating in life than losing a child due to an unnecessary and avoidable incident. At Therman Law Offices, our seasoned team of Illinois wrongful death lawyers has guided numerous families through the legal process. We know that no amount of money will ever truly compensate you for your loss, but it can help cope with the financial impact of the event.

In a recent appellate decision, an Illinois court considered whether a lower court appropriately allocated the proceeds of a wrongful death action between the parties to the case. The facts of the case are as follows. The parents of two daughters participated in the Intact Family Services program administered by the defendant. The parents had two daughters who were 10 months apart in age. In July 2010, the daughters were placed in a bath tote while unsupervised. The younger daughter, who was seven months old, drowned in the bath tote. The mother was participating in the program at the time the death occurred.

An independent administrator was named for the deceased infant’s estate, and he filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The lower court approved a $750,000 settlement from the program and its employee to the estate, and it was also approved in probate court. Sometime thereafter, the father filed a petition seeking a determination of the relative dependencies of the decedent’s family members according to the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. He sought a 90% allocation for himself, a 10% allocation for the surviving sibling, and a 0% allocation for the mother.

After a hearing on the matter, the court concluded that the mother was the cause of the decedent’s death and that she was therefore barred from recovering any proceeds of the settlement. The court awarded the father 60% of the proceeds and awarded the surviving sibling 40%. The father filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court denied. The father appealed, contending that the lower court erred by allocating any of the settlement proceeds to the surviving sibling in the absence of any evidence showing an established relationship between the siblings. The father appealed on various other grounds as well.

In upholding the lower court’s allocation, the appellate court noted that evidence in the record supported the 60-40 allocation. Specifically, evidence was presented showing that the father was absent from the decedent’s life for several periods of time and that other evidence showed that there was an observable sibling relationship between the decedent and the surviving sibling.

If you have lost a loved one as a result of someone’s carelessness, you may be entitled to damages through a wrongful death proceeding. Understanding your legal rights and protecting your interests can be difficult while you are also grieving the loss of a loved one. Our compassionate and seasoned team of Chicago injury lawyers is ready to help you ensure that your family and you receive the dedicated legal counsel and treatment that you deserve during this horrific time. To schedule a free consultation, call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.

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