Tort reform proponents testify in Springfield

Amelia Flood May 5, 2009, 11:00am

Groups seeking to reform parts of Illinois' civil justice system testified before a joint hearing of the State Senate and House Judiciary committees today.

The topics included three bills proposed by State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) that would tighten expert witness standards and venue requirements and improve conditions for jurors.

Dillard's three bills have been stalled at the committee level.

The first would adopt expert witness standards similar to those used in federal court. Illinois currently uses a looser set of standards to qualify a witness as an expert.

The second bill takes aim at so-called venue shopping. Currently, a business that is sued need only do business in the state of Illinois. It does not have to have an office within the county where a lawsuit originates.

Under the proposed bill, plaintiffs would only be able to sue a defendant doing business in a county if the defendant has an office or headquarters there, among other things.

The third bill is similar to a House bill sponsored by State Rep. Sidney Mathias (R-Arlington Heights). This bill would protect employees from penalties while serving on a jury. Employees would not be required to take any kind of leave to serve nor would employers have to provide those serving on juries with leave. Those working for companies that employ five or less people would be able to postpone their service as well.

Discussion of a taskforce to study electronic public records was also on the table.

The expert witness bill is SB-1963.

The venue reform bill is SB-1965

The jury reform bill is SB-1903.

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