Plaintiff seeks damages from Defendants under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, including punitive damages, which are expressly recoverable under the Act. 815 ILCS 505/10a.
Illinois courts mandate allowing for punitive damages net-worth-related discovery, when, such damages are available as a matter of law. In Pickering v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 265 Ill. App. 3d 806, 823-24 (5th Dist. 1994), the Court stated:
It is well settled that evidence of a defendant’s net worth and pecuniary position may be introduced in a case in which punitive damages is an issue (citation omitted). No Illinois case, of which we are aware, limits the scope of financial discovery relating to punitive damages.
Similarly, in Cripe v. Leiter, 291 Ill.App.3d 155, 160 (3d Dist. 1997), the Appellate Court affirmed a contempt order against a Defendant who had argued that his personal income tax returns were not discoverable because they were inadmissible and irrelevant.
Net worth evidence is discoverable and may be admitted at trial to set punitive damages commensurate with a defendant’s wealth so that it is sufficient to adequately punish it. Tague v. Molitor Motor Co., 139 Ill. App. 3d 313, 318 (5th Dist. 1985) ($17,000 in punitive damages arising from $1,000 in actual damages was justified due to defendant’s net worth). The financial status of the defendant is important and relevant because an amount sufficient to punish one individual may be trivial to another. The amount of the award “should send a message loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to deafen the listener.” Dubey v. Pub. Storage, Inc., 395 Ill. App. 3d 342, 359, 918 N.E.2d 265, 281–82 (1st Dist. 2009). For that reason, a “plaintiff seeking punitive damages is entitled to engage in discovery relating to the defendant’s financial worth in advance of trial.” N. Dakota Fair Hous. Council, Inc. v. Allen, 298 F. Supp. 2d 897, 899 (D.N.D. 2004). Continue reading ›