Bethany Krajelis Aug. 21, 2013, 12:09pm

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) teamed up with local business owners and a state lawmaker this week to host a forum on the impact lawsuit abuse has on small business owners.

The event took place Tuesday in Fairview Heights as part of I-LAW’s ongoing “Small Business Summer” tour.

I-LAW, a business-backed group that aims to bring attention to frivolous lawsuits, was joined at the forum by business owners Paul Braun and Carrie Braun Stark of William F. Braun Milk Hauling in Hecker, as well as Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon.

Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, said in a news release about the event that “small businesses are too often the victims of lawsuit abuse, and just one abusive lawsuit can mean the difference in whether a small business succeeds or fails.”

“I-LAW’s ‘Small Business Summer’ tour is an effort to raise awareness about how lawsuit abuse hurts small businesses and how lawsuit abuse ultimately hurts the Illinois economy,” Akin added.

In its release, I-LAW notes that “Illinois was recently ranked the fifth-worst state in the country for lawsuit abuse by the respected non-partisan research company Harris Interactive and has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country.”

Paul Braun, owner of the Hecker milk hauling company, said in the release that “money spent fighting abusive lawsuits is money down the drain.”

“Businesses can adjust to taxes and fees and changes in regulation but a lawsuit is hard to predict,” Braun said. “One lawsuit has the potential to put small business owners out of business.”

He added, “We need to draw attention to what is going on in Illinois. We need a better jobs and business climate here in Illinois and reforming our courts is a good place to start.”

Kay said in the release that when it comes to lawsuit abuse, Illinois should follow in the footsteps of other states and enact meaningful lawsuit reform.

For instance, he said that Wisconsin made legal reform a priority and “in just a matter of a few years, the state government there has gone from a deficit in the billions to a surplus.”

“We need to learn from our neighbors to the north and make lawsuit reform a priority,” Kay said.

Akin added, “it is time we recognized the damage lawsuits do to small businesses and to rally around the small business owners who create the majority of the jobs in this country.”

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