To the Editor:
I wish Travis Akin, of the misleadingly named Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, would tell the truth, just once, and admit there is absolutely no correlation between the business climate in Illinois and lawsuits. Instead, he “demonizes” our civil justice system and spreads false claims that lawsuits are responsible for keeping business away and our unemployment numbers high. Our civil justice system is essential in holding reckless drivers, polluters, careless professionals and negligent companies responsible for the injuries they cause. Akin’s true goal, when he is unmasked as a lobbyist for big industry and insurance companies, is to deny citizens access to the courts that their tax dollars fund.
Consider the facts:
The number of civil lawsuits filed in Illinois has steadily declined since 2007, down nearly 25%. Published statistics show injury lawsuits make up just 6 percent of all civil cases filed in state courts. Indeed, about 70% of civil litigation involves businesses suing other businesses or individuals over business disputes. His big industry and insurance company supporters systematically file lawsuits when it suits their own needs.
Business is thriving in Illinois and corporate profits are at record highs, even though many workers are not receiving their fair share of the growth they are helping create. Just look at the number of major corporations that call this state home – 32 of the nation’s largest companies on the Fortune 500 list are located in Illinois, and that includes State Farm Insurance and Allstate. According to the Department of Insurance, there are 360 companies fighting one another to collect premiums and write automobile insurance policies here. It sure sounds like Illinois is a huge insurance profit center if 360 automobile insurers are all competing to collect premium dollars.
A survey done by Career Builder shows that Illinois ranks third in the nation for net growth in private sector businesses from 2009 to 2012 and that our state accounted for 14 percent of all net new establishments in the United States.
A 2012 survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business ranked lawsuits as 71st among the 75 issues that small businesses find important. Taxes, energy prices, and the cost of labor are far more important factors for a company deciding where to locate.
As the NFIB survey makes clear, businesses are not concerned about “frivolous lawsuits,” what they fear are meritorious ones - actions brought by citizens against entities injuring people, producing unsafe products, polluting, swindling the public, or otherwise acting irresponsibly.
In truth, it is often these corporations and insurance companies that mount frivolous defenses that intentionally delay payments to injured people waiting for their claims to be resolved. They defend the indefensible for years with the hope of exhausting those who have been hurt and unable to work, forcing them to take less than fair and reasonable compensation for their injuries. That is the real “lawsuit abuse” problem deserving of lawmakers’ attention.
Stephen D. Phillips
President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.