ICJL hopes to halt 'anti-business' bills

Ann Knef Mar. 1, 2007, 8:56am

Ed Murnane

Don Harmon

The Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) is urging people to speak out against two "anti-business" bills gaining momentum in Springfield.

  • Senate Bill 747 would allow compensation to plaintiffs and their lawyers for amounts that were not actually lost.

  • Senate Bill 1296 would increase a defendant's liability and responsibility to pay under joint and several liability by changing the formula for determining apportionment.

    Ed Murnane, president of the ICJL, said constituents can play a key role in influencing lawmakers.

    "Two years ago, Illinois legislators heard the call for reform from Illinois citizens and the legislators responded by enacting medical liability reform," Murnane wrote in a commentary. "This was done in the face of heavy odds against reform. A law was passed and the governor signed a liability reform bill into law."

    "That would not have happened without public (translation: voter) pressure," he wrote. "Legislators do respond to their constituents, especially when they sense that constituent unhappiness could translate into voter unhappiness."

    Sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, SB747 bill is similar to one introduced last year dubbed the "plaintiffs' windfall bill."

    The bill was held up in the Senate Judiciary Civil Law Committee on Thursday.

    Murnane said the legislation doesn't require that the plaintiff receiving the windfall pay the extra recovery to the provider of the medical service.

    "Instead, the plaintiff and his/her attorney reap the benefits of this added cost, a cost above and beyond the actual loss to the plaintiff," Murnane wrote.

    State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), an "of counsel" member of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, sponsored a similar proposal in the state House last year. He drove an amended bill through a House committee, but the proposal died as many of its sponsors bailed amidst criticism that it was a trial lawyer "money grab."

    Introduced by Sen. John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary (Civil) Committee, SB1296 could hold a defendant liable much beyond his or her own fault, Murnane said.

    "The defendant with 'deep pockets' would be the plaintiffs' target, even if the degree of responsibility was minor," Murnane wrote.

    Murnane wrote that Cullerton "is usually fair and open and is likely to listen to arguments and public opinion."

    "This bill is one that deserves argument and plenty of public opinion and pressure," he wrote.

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