'Money grab' bill passes in state senate

Ann Knef Mar. 20, 2007, 5:26pm

An "anti-business" bill that shifts the burden of compensation to the party with the most money rather than the most responsibility in tort cases easily passed in the state Senate Tuesday, despite fierce opposition from business groups.

The vote came down along party lines, 34-23-1. Metro-East Senators James Clayborne (D-East St. Louis) and Bill Haine (D-Alton) voted in favor of Senate Bill 1296.

Hours before the vote, the Illinois Civil Justice League hoped to convince legislators to reject the proposal by inviting business leaders to speak out against it at a press conference in Springfield.

Steve Puiszis, president of the Illinois Association of Defense Counsel and partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson; Kevin Martin of the Illinois Insurance Association, Greg Baise of the Illinois Manufacturers Association; Todd Maisch of the Illinois Chamber, as well as Al Adomite of the ICJL, joined forces in opposition of the bill.

The ICJL has been staunchly opposed to the measure, dubbing it a trial lawyer "money grab." The bill 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, has said the bill disregards responsibility for wrongdoing and shifts it "almost totally to the size of the pocket."

The bill now moves to the House for debate.

The Illinois Association of Defense Counsel (IDC) has strongly criticized SB1296.

In a recent commentary, Puiszis wrote, "If enacted, Senate Bill 1296 will put Illinois further out of step with its neighbors, out of step with fairness, out of step with common sense and drop Illinois deeper into the tort 'hellhole' category that drives businesses out of Illinois."

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