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Hinshaw's Gretchen Harris Sperry Reviews Illinois' Biggest Decisions of 2018 and Illinois Cases to Watch in 2019

January 2, 2019

Hinshaw Partner Gretchen Harris Sperry—the chair of the firm's Appellate practice—headlined Law360's reporting on the biggest Illinois court decisions in 2018, along with the most important cases to watch in the state in 2019. Sperry considered the implications for distributors following the Cassidy v. China Vitamins LLC decision, and also reviewed McIntosh v. Walgreens, a current Illinois Supreme Court case, that considers application of the state's voluntary payment doctrine. A summary of her analysis follows below.

4 Biggest Illinois Decisions Of 2018

In Cassidy v. China Vitamins LLC, Illinois' highest court set what some are calling a "low threshold for strict product liability plaintiffs to be able to recover judgments against nonmanufacturers" under Illinois law. In deciding that plaintiffs don't need to prove a manufacturer went bankrupt or folded before seeking to enforce the judgment against a distributor, the court departed from the Illinois Appellate Court's 2014 ruling in Chraca v. U.S. Battery Manufacturing Co.

"Under Chraca we thought we knew what the standard was for a plaintiff to get a manufacturer back in a case," said Sperry. "After China Vitamins, the Supreme Court's decision leaves open the question of what a plaintiff now has to show. This changes, really, the risk assessment for distributors." Although the decision is only a few months old, Sperry anticipates that it will impact product liability litigation moving forward.

Read "4 Biggest Illinois Decisions Of 2018," on the Law360 website (subscription required)

Illinois Cases To Watch In 2019

Walgreens' parent company is set to defend its stance that the "state's voluntary payment doctrine blocks consumers from bringing certain allegations of deceptive acts under the state Consumer Fraud Act." Under the voluntary payment doctrine, consumers can't sue to recover money they voluntarily paid to another merely because they misunderstood their liability for those funds. For retailers that collect sales and use taxes, the voluntary payment doctrine can serve as a protection against claims they wrongly collected sales tax on certain items. However, the First District Appellate Court recently ruled that the doctrine doesn't apply to deceptive acts alleged under the Act.

"[According to the appellate court,] it didn't matter that Walgreens didn't intend to deceive the plaintiff," Sperry said. However, this holding is at odds with the idea that "in order to plead a successful fraud claim, you have to have a heightened level of pleading [as to] how a fraud occurred," and so, Sperry notes, the Illinois Supreme Court will have to "reconcile these two concepts about how exactly are we treating fraud and fraud pleading" in this context.

Read "Illinois Cases To Watch In 2019," on the Law360 website (subscription required)

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP is a U.S. law firm with 450 attorneys located in 11 states and London. Founded in 1934, the firm has a national reputation for its insurance industry work, its representation of professionals and law firms, and its closely coordinated business advisory, transactional and litigation services. We serve clients ranging from emerging and middle-market businesses to Fortune 500 companies, as well as governmental and public sector clients.

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