Can the Provision of Treble Damages Be Applied Retroactively If There Is Evidence of Willful and Wanton Misconduct of Defentant ?
In Dardeen v. Heartland Manor, Inc., 186 Ill. 2d 291, 300, 710 N.E.2d 827, 238 Ill. Dec. 30 (1999), an estate administrator who brought a survival action appealed the dismissal of her request under the Act for treble damages.
The court considered as a certified question whether a 1995 amendment to the Act that repealed the treble damages provision could be applied retroactively.
The court concluded that the amendment did not interfere with a vested right and that, therefore, it retroactively applied to the plaintiff's claim such that treble damages were unavailable. Dardeen, 186 Ill. 2d at 298-99.
In doing so, the court noted that the Act's damages provision, as amended, limited recovery for violations of the Act to actual damages, costs, and attorney fees. Dardeen, 186 Ill. 2d at 292; see 210 ILCS 45/3-602 (West 1996).
Moreover, the court rejected the plaintiff's argument that the amendment raised a plaintiff's burden of proof for establishing entitlement to punitive damages (from negligence to willful conduct), noting:
"The repeal of one of the remedies available to plaintiff under the Act does not deprive plaintiff of her cause of action.
The amendment to section 3-602 pertains only to the remedies available to plaintiff once plaintiff has proved her cause of action.
Under the amended version of the statute, plaintiff may recover actual damages and attorney fees upon proof of defendant's negligent violations of the Act, and may additionally recover common-law punitive damages upon proof of willful and wanton misconduct on the part of defendant." Dardeen, 186 Ill. 2d at 300.
In Eads v. Heritage Enterprises, Inc., 204 Ill. 2d 92, 105, 787 N.E.2d 771, 272 Ill. Dec. 585 (2003) the court considered the "sole issue" of whether a plaintiff asserting a cause of action under the Act must attach to the complaint a certificate of merit as required by the Healing Arts Malpractice Act (735 ILCS 5/2-622 (West 2000)).
The court answered this question in the negative. Eads, 204 Ill. 2d at 109.
In doing so, the court referenced the opposing nature of the two laws at issue, noting that the Healing Arts Malpractice Act expressly banned recovery of punitive damages, whereas, in contrast, "the Nursing Home Care Act allows plaintiffs to recover common-law punitive damages upon proof of willful and wanton misconduct on the part of defendants." Eads, 204 Ill. 2d at 103-04, citing Dardeen, 186 Ill. 2d at 300.