Can You Ask a Witness About His Pending Lawsuits ?

In Swanlund v. Rockford & I. Ry. Co., 305 Ill. 339, 137 N.E. 206 (1922), the supreme court, without setting forth any rationale or analysis, concluded that the trial court had erred in refusing to allow the defendant to ask a witness whether the witness had his own lawsuit pending against the railway company in connection with the accident in question in Swanlund. Swanlund, 305 Ill. at 346-47. Swanlund involved the question of whether a witness had a lawsuit against another entity, not whether a lawsuit was pending against the witness. Similarly, Katz v. Shaf Home Builders, Inc., 94 Ill. App. 3d 526, 418 N.E.2d 822, 49 Ill. Dec. 802 (1981) is not instructive because there the plaintiff had filed a claim against the defendant and the defendant in turn filed a claim against the plaintiff's employer. Katz, 94 Ill. App. 3d at 527. When a representative of the employer took the stand, the court concluded that it was proper to ask him if a third-party action was pending against the company to show bias or interest. Katz, 94 Ill. App. 3d at 530.