I-LAW revives focus on lawsuit reform

Ann Knef Mar. 23, 2005, 10:12am

In the wake of the state senate's failure to move a package of tort reform bills out of committee on March 17, Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) launched a statewide campaign to resucitate attention on a package of dying tort reform bills.

"We're making it clear today to all legislators that Illinoisans are sick of lawsuits and we will be watching very closely in the weeks ahead," said Steve Schoeffel, I-LAW executive director on Wednesday.

Schoeffel said his efforts will stretch into northern Illinois where reform has met resistance among Democratic law makers. He also said he would encourage concerned citizens to demand passage of reform bills from their legislators.

"The lawsuit epidemic that is getting worse in Illinois has created a healthcare crisis that harms patients, drives away doctors and limits access to healthcare services in too many parts of our state," Schoeffel said. "We're going to be watching what goes on (in Springfield) for the rest of the session."

Without a promised committee vote, medical malpractice and class action reform bills were swept from the Senate Judiciary Committee into the Executive Committee by Sen. Emil Jones (D-Chicago) signaling Democratic's unwillingness to pass reform.

Among the casualties was Senate Bill 150, which would cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000 and limit claims against hospitals to $500,000.

Schoeffel said that Metro-East legislators, including Sens. Bill Haine (D-Alton), James Clayborne (D-Belleville), State Reps. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) and Dan Beiser (D-Alton), will be "watched closely" to see if they push for reform.

The state legislature is in its spring break. Many legislators contacted on Thursday, including Haine and Clayborne, were not available for comment.

"We also need our lawmakers to pass class action reform legislation because personal injury lawyers are abusing class action lawsuits as a way to make big money for themselves," Schoeffel said. "Personal injury lawyers recruit unharmed plaintiffs to create massive class action lawsuits in an attempt to win big money."

Schoeffel said he would be sending out action alerts, putting up billboards, organizing rallies and airing radio ads.

"These legislators are in a position to have a significant impact on the passage of meaningful reform this year," he said.

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