Location and litigation: Illinois' top 20 companies in MC Court

Ann Knef Mar. 10, 2005, 4:12am

Illinois Chamber of Commerce president Doug Whitley

When considering locale, would a company chose a state where the courts are perceived unfair?

Business experts say that lost jobs, tax revenue and other economic development opportunities are the harsh realities of being reputed as a bad state in which to do business.

Since 1995, Illinois' top 20 companies have been sued 226 times in Madison County Circuit Court. The figure does not represent the number of asbestos cases that have been filed against those companies. (See chart).

Illinois Chamber of Commerce president Doug Whitley said a negative perception of the state's legal climate may not force companies out of Illinois.

"But the negative perception sends signals to the decision makers to avoid Illinois," Whitley said.

"Our state of Illinois has a clear, radiating negative perception that the (state) court system has a negative bias against corporate America," Whitley said.

Those with a pulse on the Metro-East's economic development reacted to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform's recently released Harris Poll which showed that Illinois dropped in rank in a survey measuring legal fairness among states.

"On the one hand it's certainly not a distinction we want to tout," said Mike Pierceall, executive director of the Alliance of Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, a non-profit agency dedicated to fostering business growth.

"But it's out there," Pierceall said. "True or not it has raised a lot of concerns. We have heard from some major companies that we deal with and they are cautious when deciding to expand or make an investment in (the area)."

Pierceall said the county's reputed legal system is not always noted by prospective businesses looking to get established, but those who research with "due diligence" are aware of the county's reputation.

"Sometimes we just don't know if it's a concern," he said.

Businesses select locations based on a number of factors, he said, including location and the quality of schools and community.

"The bottom line is, can they make money here?"

Jim Pennekamp, executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Leadership Council, said the survey is troubling, but the region has major assets in residential, commercial and industrial development. He noted the region's healthcare industry, which has suffered from a doctor exodus, also has "enormous potential for growth."

"Obviously, anything that creates a disincentive to businesses in southwest Illinois or the state of Illinois is a great concern to us," he said. "The resolution is at the top of the minds of legislators."

The Madison County Record is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Illinois Chamber of Commerce
215 E Adams St
Springfield, IL 62701

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