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Families decry state’s “lowball” offers to settle Quincy Legionnaires’ cases

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller


Initial offers by Illinois’ attorney general to settle a dozen lawsuits linked to the state’s mishandling of fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at the Quincy veterans’ home have been so sparse, some families are calling them “insulting.”

During Kwame Raoul’s campaign to become the state’s top law enforcement official, the Democrat called the state’s mishandling of the outbreaks “unconscionable.” Fourteen people died after getting Legionnaires’ at the largest state-run veterans’ home.

Following a WBEZ investigation into the outbreaks, then-state Sen. Raoul voted last fall to raise damage caps on lawsuits against the state to $2 million, and to make that increase retroactive to apply to a dozen families who lost loved ones at the Illinois Veterans Home and had pending negligence cases against the state. […]

To date, however, the attorney general has only made settlement offers that range between $200,000 and $500,000, WBEZ has learned.

The plaintiffs, at least one of whom appeared in a JB Pritzker campaign ad, are hopping mad. Go read the rest for their react.


  1. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    Pay the people right for their horrific losses and illnesses.

  2. - Unpopular - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    $500,000 is an insult?

  3. - FormerParatrooper - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:08 am:

    I agree with Grandson of Man. And make sure this doesn’t happen again in the State. This is a basic function of government to maintain sanitation.

  4. - JS Mill - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:14 am:

    Get.This.Done. Right.

  5. - Nagidam - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:16 am:

    What happened at Quincy was a systemic failure not an isolated incident. Treat it like a systemic failure and compensate the victims families. Maybe…just maybe the State will then learn from the failure.

  6. - City Zen - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:21 am:

    Not a Kool move at all, Kwame.

  7. - OneMan - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:49 am:

    Ok, really cynical here. But when courts determine payouts for such things is the age of the person who is killed taken into account?

  8. - Lucky Pierre - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:55 am:

    What does pay the people right mean?

    On what planet is $500,000 a lowball offer?

  9. - Moe Berg - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 10:57 am:

    Super difficult to make a determination about what is fair and what is a life “worth”.

    From a moral, emotional and sentimental viewpoint, it is priceless, of course. None of us would feel any different about that for ourselves or our loved ones.

    The Quincy cases are different from the J.W. Mariott cases referenced in the WBEZ story because, first of all, the hotel is part of a for-profit, money making enterprise. Its decision to cut corners to save money was negligent and led to death and serious injury. What it was ordered to pay to victims was both meant to compensate them for their suffering and loss of ability to earn income, and to deter future bad behavior on the company’s part.

    The veterans’ home is not a profit-making enterprise and any settlements paid out come not from shareholders’ pockets but those of taxpayers. Would max settlements incentivize the state to prevent such situations in the future? Personally, I’m skeptical. The state isn’t a corporation and the incentives for employees and elected officials are different. And, the state is committing $230 million to rebuild the facility, a massive outlay of taxpayer resources designed to keep future residents safe.

    Raoul is in the very unenviable position of having to look out for taxpayers’ best interests. A no-win situation for him and the easy way out would be to just offer the maximum $2 million to everyone right off the bat. He actually deserves credit for not doing it, taking the heat, and being portrayed as heartless and betraying veterans’ families.

    And, even though it feels icky and totally unseemly, when figuring out what is fair, typically in such situations, you look at the victims’ future earnings potential. In these cases, it’s more or less zero, other than what they were receiving in pension or social security payments.

    I appreciate the work that McKinney and Arnold did to bring this story to light. That’s journalism in the public interest. Their reporting in this case is also helpful in updating us on the current status of the matter. What they did not do, and what would have made their reporting better, is to wrestle more with the question of what is fair and how that might be determined. Instead, we are left with a typical black-and-white, here’s another phony, hypocritical politician who broke his promises story. In my view, that’s not a fair portrayal of what Raoul has said or done.

    There is a rich literature on the subject of how to compensate victims in unique situations like this, and there is one man, in particular, who has spent a significant part of his career wrestling with such issues: Kenneth Feinberg. He had the wrenchingly unenviable task of administering the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund and determining how much the families of those murdered that day should receive. I’ve heard Feinberg interviewed a number of times on WBEZ.

  10. - Ducky LaMoore - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:01 am:

    Everyone knows (I thought) the initial settlement offer is a lowball.

  11. - revvedup - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    No surprise at the lowball offers; attorneys always do this, figuring they might get lucky and the plaintiffs will take the first offer. And yes, the offers are insulting, given the repeated failure of the State to care for people not able to care for themselves, the coverup, and lack of timely action.

  12. - JS Mill - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:15 am:

    =On what planet is $500,000 a lowball offer?=

    Maybe read the entire article that rich provided the link for.

  13. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:16 am:

    So what’s their demand? I did not see that anywhere in the article. It seems a little premature to me to be condemning Raoul for his litigation tactics here.

  14. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    Since the cap was raised in conjunction with these incidents to $2 million, I’d be shocked if the demand were any less.

  15. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:32 am:

    ===Since the cap was raised in conjunction with these incidents to $2 million===

    This is the settlement stage. The cap comes into play only if this gets to a courtroom. No way the AG offers to settle for the maximum amount. The state would be better off taking its chances in front of a jury.

  16. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    Aren’t these in the Court of Claims? No juries.

  17. - Trapped in the 'burbs - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    There are multiple factors used to calculate damages in a wrongful death case. In these cases, they have to account for pain and suffering, loss of society to family members and expected longevity.
    They use life charts to determine life expectancy using actuarial models and include compensation for the expected years of life lost. In this case, if the parties get leave of court to file for punitive damages, the settlement value goes up. If one of the decedents had multiple comorbidities, the value goes down. An initial offer $500,000 is not an insult. If the decedent had serious life threatening illnesses prior to the state’s tortious conduct and was very old, the initial offer might be a generous opening bid. It’s hard to criticize without additional information. Most importantly, the state is engaged in the process to bring these cases to resolution. These types of cases can drag out for years even when the parties are committed to settling before trial. We can be encouraged that the process has begun.

  18. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 12:13 pm:

    $500,000 is the Federal payment for a military person killed in combat. Seems a fair offer to an aged vet.

  19. - Citizen Kane - Thursday, Aug 29, 19 @ 3:37 pm:

    What an insult. Rep. Kifowit was right about them devaluing those of us who are veterans in this state. Just look no farther than the IDVA whose Field Services Division is in a state of disrepair. They’re so poorly trained (read not trained at all) that those offices routinely turn veterans away because “I don’t know how to complete that form.” Disgusting.

  20. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Aug 30, 19 @ 7:18 am:

    ==What an insult. Rep. Kifowit was right about them devaluing those of us who are veterans in this state.==
    Ok, so at what price does it become not an insult?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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