A measure that intends to put an end to forum shopping has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.
House Bill 138 would amend the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure to provide for the dismissal of lawsuits for lack of proper venue if the defendants are not Illinois residents and the cause of action didn’t occur in the state.
Current law allows plaintiffs to bring suits in any county if the defendants are nonresidents.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said this year will mark at least her third attempt at pushing a venue reform measure.
The Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL) has supported her legislation in previous years and the Illinois Trial Lawyers’ Association (ILTA) has opposed it.
“I think Illinois, especially Madison County, St. Clair County and Cook County, has a bad reputation that’s born out of filing stats,” Tracy said Thursday, adding that the state’s designation as a so-called judicial hellhole hurts the economy.
“Venue is a big part of that,” she said, explaining that when a business looks to open or an existing one wants to expand, they look at a variety of factors in that state, including how its court system treats business.
Not only would venue reform help improve Illinois’ economy, but Tracy said it could save the court system money and eliminate the strain on out-of-state witnesses who have to travel to Illinois to testify in suits with out-of-state defendants and causes of action.
HB138, Tracy said, in no way restricts plaintiffs’ accessibility to the courts for the purposes of bringing lawsuits. It simply creates guidelines as to where they can bring them, she said.
Given her previous attempts at venue reform haven’t been successful, Tracy said she doesn’t exactly know where her legislation will go this year.
Last year, Tracy said, her venue bill didn’t make it to a committee vote and instead was given a substantive hearing.
She said she will continue to work with the ITLA to address their concerns with venue reform as she has “no intention to restrict plaintiffs’ rights.”
Tracy filed the bill with the House clerk on Jan. 11, two days after the 98th General Assembly was sworn in.
The House is scheduled to return to Springfield for spring session Jan. 30 with the Senate set for a Feb. 5 return.
The language of HB138 can be found on the General Assembly's website at ilga.gov.