Vol. 2 No. 1, Spring 2011; Nolan & Ready—“Settling” for Less than Perfect in Illinois when Determining the Role Defendants Play in the Litigation After They Settle
Meyer, Benjamin W.
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This Note examines the interplay of two decisions made by the Illinois Supreme Court during their 2008 – 2009 term—Ready v. United/Goedecke Services, Inc. and Nolan v. WEIL-McLain. Interpreting the statutory wording of the Illinois joint and several liability statute (735 ILCS 5/2-1117), Ready held that settled defendants may not be included on jury verdict forms when apportioning fault. The later decided Nolan held that a defendant may submit evidence of settled defendants in support of his sole proximate cause defense. This Note points out that the Nolan decision renders the Ready decision unworkable, because once a jury is exposed to the evidence of settled defendants, the jury will consider that evidence when apportioning fault, regardless of whether the settled defendants' names appear on the jury verdict form. Furthermore, the result of the Ready decision is that the remaining defendants in the litigation will be forced to bear the liability that is unable to be apportioned to the settled defendants. Consequently, this Note argues that the Ready decision should be overturned, allowing settled defendants to be included on the jury verdict form. Additionally, the article argues that the sole proximate cause instruction should be abrogated from Illinois courts. Through these changes, the Illinois legislature's intent in passing the joint and several liability statute—to protect the minimally culpable defendant from having to pay the entire amount of damages—will be achieved.