The General Assembly is weeks away from adjourning for the summer. So far this legislative session, the leaders in both the House and Senate have refused to allow any lawsuit reform legislation to advance.
Other Midwest states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin have made lawsuit reform a priority but here in Illinois, the legislative leaders in the House and the Senate continue to ignore the need for reform.
But the business as usual approach is not working in Illinois.
Illinois is swimming in debt and the economy continues to flounder. In Wisconsin, the unemployment rate is 6.9 percent while the unemployment rate in Illinois stands at 9.1 percent.
If we changed the culture of lawsuit abuse in Illinois, we could create a climate more conducive to job growth. Personal injury lawyers insist that the litigation climate has nothing to do with jobs and the economy. They want to pretend lawsuit abuse happens in a bubble.
But the truth is lawsuit abuse does hurt the economy and the ones who are the hardest hit are the people with the least ability to do anything about it. One shining example of this is the so- called "legacy" lawsuit scam in Louisiana. Under the guise of cleaning up the environment where conventional onshore oil rigs were located, personal injury lawyers are scouring property records to connect parcels of land to any "deep pocket" defendants they can find.
In the end, these lawsuits are hurting people who need a good-paying job. A recent Louisiana State University study shows how these so-called "legacy" lawsuits have cost Louisiana citizens more than 30,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in wages in the last eight years.
In a letter recently sent to members of a Louisiana State Senate committee, the top executive of Hilcorp, a leading oil producer in Louisiana, wrote, "Unfortunately, legacy lawsuits appear to be a growth industry in Louisiana, with no signs of abating. The consequences of inaction are dire for our business and for the industry as a whole."
More than three quarters of the legacy lawsuits filed do not have any evidence of environmental damage. While millions of people in Louisiana and other states are looking for a job to provide for their families, a small group of legacy lawsuit lawyers continue to line their pockets thanks to their abusive lawsuits.
This is not justice. This is an abuse of our legal system that is costing jobs and opportunities.
The legacy lawsuits are just another example of how the real world "legacy" of lawsuit abuse is ultimately job loss, which is a lesson Illinois would be wise to learn sooner rather than later.
Illinois, like Louisiana, is often targeted by personal injury lawyers due to the plaintiff-friendly reputation of our state's court system. Illinois was ranked 45th out of all 50 states for legal fairness in a recent study from the Harris research company.
Without common sense lawsuit reform, Illinois' "legacy" will be lost jobs.