Suing everybody, in Illinois

The Madison County Record May 15, 2005, 10:19am

Why does Illinois need tort reform? Look no further than the web site of Chicago law firm McGowan & Hull (

This ‘personal injury’ outfit has a million and one ways that you and I can make a buck through our courts.

Illinois car accident “victims” can learn from McGowan & Hull how “improper design, maintenance, construction, signage, lighting or other highway defects, including poorly placed trees and utility poles,” might have caused their accident.

“If you haven't brought a personal injury claim because you didn't think there was another driver to blame, contact us to evaluate other potential defendants,” the firm proclaims.

For Illinois parents, there are even more opportunities.

“Each year in the United States, 200,000 preschool and elementary school children visit emergency departments for injuries sustained on playground equipment. Contact us if your child has been injured,” begs the firm.

Among McGowan & Hull’s accomplishments’ are settlements of $435,000 for a client who fractured his ankle in a car accident, $235,000 for an electrician who hurt his back lifting a ladder, $125,000 for a woman who slipped and fell in a Target parking lot, and $95,000 for a ‘low impact’ rear auto collision that resulted in a minor back injury.

Nice work if you can get it.

That many Illinoisans will read of these cases and—- rather than vomit—- instead aspire to be a plaintiff someday themselves, cashing in on their own settlement, speaks to our state’s real civil justice problem.

Law has somehow, someway, dramatically changed the Land of Lincoln’s culture.

Everyone is afraid of being sued. And it’s not just the doctors and the hospitals—- it’s the teachers, our public officials, the neighbors, and your employer. Fear of legal risk has infected every facet of our lives, impacting every serious decision we make.

Why tort reform?

Because our doctors treat us as patients as well as potential plaintiffs. Because our schools cannot give honest job references for teachers suspected of molesting students. Because our park districts took down the playground equipment.

Because everyone fears a two-bit law firm like McGowan & Hull. And because when they win and their plaintiffs collect, everybody pays.

Our doctors leave, the kids stay indoors, the city hikes property taxes, auto insurance rates soar, and Target raises its prices.

In Illinois an individual’s ‘right to sue’ comes first—- and everything else comes second.

This state isn’t lawsuit-happy—- it’s lawsuit-sick. And if we don't start trying remedies, we'll never find a cure.

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