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Roberts v. Alexandria Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 4, 2017

THOMAS ROBERTS and DIANE ROBERTS, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALEXANDRIA TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendants, ALEXANDRIA TRANSPORTATION, INC. AND ALEXANDRE SOLOMAKHA, Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
STATEWIDE TIRE DISTRIBUTORS, INC., et al., Third-Party Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs and Third-party defendant Edwards-Kamadulski, LLC's Joint Motion (Doc. 189) for a Good-Faith Finding. The motion being fully briefed, the Court held a hearing on the motion on April 26th, 2017.

         1. Background.

         This case arose from an accident which occurred westbound on Interstate 70 in Madison County on September 16, 2013. Plaintiff Thomas Roberts was driving a 2012 Dodge Ram 4500 and was stopped due to construction on the road when he was struck in the rear by a Freightliner tractor trailer driven by defendant Solomakha. Defendants Solomakha, Alexandria Transportation, Inc. and Alex Express, LL brought a third-party complaint (Doc. 116) against Edwards-Kamadulski, LLC (“Edwards”), Safety International, LLC and Statewide Tire Distributors, Inc. The plaintiffs and third-party defendant Edwards now seek an order finding that the settlement agreement between the plaintiffs and Edwards was made and entered into in good faith with the meaning of the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act (740 ILCS 1000/1, et seq.).

         2. Standards.

         The Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act provides that:

(c) When a release or covenant not to sue or not to enforce judgment is given in good faith to one or more persons liable in tort arising out of the same injury or the same wrongful death, it does not discharge any of the other tortfeasors from liability for the injury or wrongful death unless its terms so provide but it reduces the recovery on any claim against the others to the extent of any amount stated in the release or the covenant, or in the amount of the consideration actually paid for it, whichever is greater.
(d) The tortfeasor who settles with a claimant pursuant to paragraph (c) is discharged from all liability for any contribution to any other tortfeasor.

740 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 100/2.

         “The Contribution Act does not specifically define good faith; in determining whether an agreement was made in good faith, all of the surrounding circumstances must be considered. However, once a preliminary showing of a good-faith settlement has been made, the burden shifts to the party challenging the settlement to establish that it was not made in good faith.” Wilson v. Hoffman Group, Inc., 546 N.E.2d 524, 529 (Ill. 1989).

Having reviewed the relevant case law, we conclude that, when a court determines whether a settlement was negotiated in good faith within the meaning of the Contribution Act, the settling parties carry the initial burden of making a preliminary showing of good faith. At a minimum, the settling parties must show the existence of a legally valid settlement agreement. However, not all legally valid settlements satisfy the good-faith requirements of the Contribution Act. Therefore, other factual evidence may be necessary before the court may determine, as an initial matter, whether the settlement is fair and reasonable in light of the policies underlying the Contribution Act.
Further, we are persuaded by the well-reasoned decision in Bowers that, once a preliminary showing of good faith has been made by the settling parties, the party challenging the good faith of the settlement need prove the absence of good faith by a preponderance of the evidence.
This court has previously recognized that the Contribution Act seeks to promote two important public policies-the encouragement of settlements and the equitable apportionment of damages among tortfeasors. When a court decides whether a settlement was negotiated in “good faith, ” it ...

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