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Knierim v. Izzo - 22 Ill. 2d 73, 174 N.E.2d 157 (1961)


Both the Wrongful Death Act, Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 70, para. 1 and 2 (1957), and the Liquor Control Act, Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 43 (1957), provide that an administrator may maintain an action, the persons entitled to recovery, the measure of damages, the bases of liability, and the maximum recovery are not the same under the two acts. The persons entitled to recovery under the Wrongful Death Act are the widow and next of kin the measure of damages is the pecuniary loss suffered by such beneficiaries, Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 70, para. 2 (1957), and when the kinsman are lineal, a presumption of pecuniary loss obtains, from the relationship alone, sufficient to sustain a verdict and judgment awarding substantial damages, without proof of actual loss. The action is based on the wrongful act of the defendant. Under the Liquor Control Act, persons who were in fact receiving support from the decedent are entitled to recovery. The defendant's liability is not based on fault, and the maximum recovery for the class of beneficiaries is $ 20,000. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 43, para. 135 (1957).


Six cases were consolidated by the superior court of Cook County (Illinois) because each involved the liability of tavern operators and owners of tavern premises under sections 12 and 14 of article VI of the Liquor Control Act, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, chap. 43, pars. 131 and 135, and the common law. The victims sought to impose liability on the tavern owners for personal injuries, property damage, and wrongful death. In the complaint for wrongful death in particular, it was alleged that plaintiff’s husband was murdered while the Izzo was intoxicated; thus, Izzo, together with certain tavern operators were named as defendants. The trial court dismissed certain counts of the complaints for failure to state a cause of action. Plaintiff victims challenged the trial court’s judgment.


Did the plaintiff victims fail to state a cause of action in their respective complaints?


Yes, for certain complaints; No, for the wrongful death claim.


The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the complaints that purported to state a cause of action under the Wrongful Death Act were properly dismissed because the Liquor Control Act provided the only remedy against tavern owners and operators for any death caused by an intoxicated person or in consequence of intoxication. Moreover, the court held that mental anguish, disgrace, and loss of society did not constitute an injury to person within the meaning of the Liquor Control Act. However, according to the court, the trial court erred when it dismissed a complaint that a tavern patron, while intoxicated, murdered a victim's husband, because the victim stated a cause of action under the Wrongful Death Act.

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