Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker said Friday his new administration would consider reaching settlements with the families of a dozen people who filed lawsuits alleging negligence against the state over Legionella disease-related deaths at the state’s veterans home in Quincy.
Pritzker said such consideration was prompted by the action of lawmakers who earlier this week overrode Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of legislation and enacted a $2 million cap on damages awarded through the Court of Claims to replace the previous $100,000 limit.
“I think there’s the opportunity now for fairer settlements to be reached and there’s no doubt we’re going to move forward and try to get justice for all the families that were affected,” Pritzker said.
“This has been a terrible tragedy and, so there’s no doubt about it, there were mistakes made. And I think, you know, we’re going to have to work out going forward, on a settlement basis likely, what each family will receive. But I’m glad that the caps were raised,” he said.
A total of 14 people have died at the post-Civil War veterans home since a 2015 outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease led to a dozen deaths and caused illnesses in nearly 70 people. There have been annual outbreaks of the disease since and state lawmakers have authorized funding to rebuild the facility and its aged water-supply system.
In addition, outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan has launched a grand jury investigation over the Rauner administration’s handling of the outbreak and whether residents and staff were notified promptly.
The state has denied it was negligent in response to the cases filed by families with the Court of Claims. But Pritzker stopped short of saying the state would drop its defense when his administration takes over Jan. 14.
“I’ll let the lawyers who are negotiating it manage through that,” Pritzker said, adding, “I think there’s probably more to understand reading the files and getting more intimately involved. But I really don’t have all those facts.”
Rauner a day earlier criticized the override of his veto on legislation that lifted the damage caps, saying it was not motivated by the Quincy victims but instead was “a major sop” to the state’s civil liability attorneys, who are significant backers of Democratic lawmakers, and would cost the state tens of millions of dollars.
The one-term Republican governor also criticized the Democratic takeover of the governor’s office and other statewide offices and expanded Democratic majorities in the legislature by saying he was “very scared for the people of Illinois.” Rauner contended “the folks who put Illinois into a financial quagmire are now back in complete control of the government.”
Appearing at a West Side event to announce the leaders of his transition team on restorative justice and safe communities, Pritzker dismissed Rauner’s comments. The Democrat said the views of the outgoing and incoming governors were made “transparent for the voters to see and to contemplate, and I think the voters spoke.”
He also credited the Rauner administration for working together with his transition staff.
“It’s important to me that we all pull together now to carry this state forward to solve the real challenges that we face,” Pritzker said. “I know that when the transfer of power takes place that we’re going to have a new direction for the state of Illinois — a positive direction in which we’re going to meet and overcome the challenges that we face.”
Asked by a reporter what Rauner’s criticisms said about the departing governor, Pritzker responded, “Time heals all.”
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November 30, 2018 at 05:51PM