Molly’s Law, a new measure that was recently signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, will help Illinois families who are seeking justice in wrongful death cases. Inspired by Molly Young, an Illinois woman who was found dead in 2012 in her ex-boyfriend’s Carbondale home, the legislation extends the statute of limitations in Illinois wrongful death claims and increases the financial penalties for non-compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
Under the previous law in Illinois, surviving families had a mere two years from the time of the victim’s death to file a claim. In the case of Molly Young, the coroner’s jury was unable to determine whether the gunshot wound that caused her death was a result of an accident, suicide or homicide. While the victim’s father, Larry Young, suspected foul play and attempted to obtain police records that would shed more light on the case, his requests were denied. Meanwhile, time ran out for Young to take legal action. The new law, which extends the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits to five years from the date of the victim’s death or one year from the conclusion of the criminal case against the perpetrator, is intended to allow families a more adequate amount of time to evaluate evidence and move forward with a suit if desired. Unfortunately, the law does not include retroactive cases, and Young’s family is unable to pursue a claim.
The second portion of Molly’s Law imposes hefty fines for public bodies that willfully and intentionally fail to comply with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). While Larry Young made numerous attempts to obtain police records from the Carbondale Police Department and the Illinois State Police, it wasn’t until February of 2016 that the Illinois Attorney General’s Office ordered Illinois police to release the information. In denying Young’s requests, Carbondale police and Illinois State Police violated the state’s public records laws. Under the new law, which will go into effect January 1, 2017, the court can impose fines of up to$10,000 for each occurrence, and an additional $1,000 per day when a public body does not comply with orders to turn over documents pertaining to a case within 30 days.
According to Governor Rauner, the extended time period for filing a claim and increased penalties for violating the FOIA will better enable families to obtain justice in such tragic cases.