One of the founding partners at our firm, Attorney Steve Levin, is scheduled to present next month at an interesting seminar on complex evidence issues which may be of value to all Illinois litigators. The seminar is entitled “Advanced Evidentiary Issues At Trial.” It is sponsored by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE), and you can register for the event by visiting this website. It is a day-long affair to be held at the UBS Tower & Conference Center on January 25th.
Attorney Levin will specifically discuss a few evidentiary rules that are applicable to wrongful death cases, including the Illinois Dead Man’s Statute. The Act is a limitation on the introduction of certain evidence in cases where a relevant party is deceased. When not navigated carefully, the protections afforded to the estate of the deceased may derail even the most worthy of claims. For that reason it is important for all Illinois litigators to have a good foundational understanding of these rules and how they might affect litigation.
Dead Man’s Act in Illinois – Alive and Kicking
In recent decades many states have done away with the Dead Man’s Act, but not Illinois. The current law is still in full effect and routinely enforced by courts. In short, the law forbids use of testimony by “interested parties” about conversations they had with the deceased or events including the deceased. The basic idea is that the interested party–because they have something personally riding on the outcome–would be too tempted to make false statements which could not be rebutted by the deceased.
As you might expect, much wrangling has gone on over the years about exactly when these bars apply and to whom. For example, there is significant case law defining who does or does not count as an “interested” party. Obviously a plaintiff who stands to gain from a decision or a defendant who stands to lose has something on the line. But what about their spouse? A police officer who was also at the scene of an incident? A shareholder in a company in which the company is a defendant?
Similarly, there is continuing dispute about what details of an “event” connected to a deceased can be shared. If two individuals are involved in an auto accident and one of them dies, can the surviving party explain what he was doing inside the car at the time of the accident. How fast he was going? Whether he was listening to the radio? What the weather the conditions were like? Obviously those details may prove pivotal to the legal matter, but without full understanding of the Illinois Dead Man’s Act, counsel may make a mistake which prevents the evidence for entering or allows it to enter against the best interests of a client.
To learn about these details and much more, be sure to check out the Advanced Evidence Seminar. You can register at the IICLE website and secure your spot today.