I-LAW gets city leaders to help fight frivolous lawsuits

Ann Knef Sep. 27, 2007, 5:21am

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), a grassroots legal watchdog group, is meeting with local leaders across the state to spread the word about the need to stop lawsuit abuse.

In observation of Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, the group's new leader says mayors across the state will be issuing proclamations that call attention to the large amounts of money municipalities spend fighting frivolous lawsuits.

In the Metro-East, numerous personal injury lawsuits against local governments have been filed over the years. Just this week in Madison County the cities of Alton and Granite City were hit with suits filed by pedestrians.

According to the new suit against Alton, a woman who tripped on a city sidewalk is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 for her alleged injuries. Donna Pritzker claims she was walking southbound in the 2300 block of Washington Avenue on Sept. 29, 2006, when she tripped and fell because the sidewalk was uneven.

In another case, a man struck by a motorist last year on a city street crosswalk is suing Granite City for damages in excess of $50,000. Steve Callison claims the city failed to use reasonable care to keep the public intersection in a reasonably safe condition for the use of the traveling public.

Travis Akin, I-LAW executive director, recognized that "tremendous successes" have taken place in Madison and St. Clair counties as a result of citizens' efforts for reform, but said a legislative fix is needed statewide.

"We have gained ground on this issue," Akin said in a press release, "but the fight is far from over."

"Ultimately, what we need is a legislative solution to the problem of lawsuit abuse in Illinois," he said.

I-LAW will be running a radio ad on stations throughout the state during the awareness week, which is observed Oct. 1-8.

According to Akin, the ad lists a number of ways individuals can help fight lawsuit abuse, including serving on a jury when called, encouraging personal responsibility and "speaking out against the lawsuit lottery mentality promoted by aggressive personal injury lawyer advertising," he said.

"Citizens in Madison and St. Clair counties understand the importance of this issue, but if we are ever going to get venue reform, jury reform or expert witness reform enacted into law at the state level, we need a public outcry that goes beyond the Metro-East," he said.

"We need to build a grassroots movement statewide so that we can put pressure on the Legislature to take action and shed Illinois' reputation as a judicial hellhole once and for all."

While some cities are litigation targets, one Metro-East city is leading the charge as a class action plaintiff.

Fairview Heights filed suit against online travel services in 2005 claiming they cheated on hotel room taxes.

The pending case has become embroiled in some controversy as several aldermen now claim they were never made aware the lawsuit was being filed as a class action suit.

The city council passed a resolution authorizing the litigation, but the term "class action" was not part of the language.

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