Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Oct. 9, 2013, 4:33pm

In observance of Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, the Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, or I-LAW, is traveling the state in a campaign to heighten awareness of frivolous lawsuits filed in the local courts.

Madison and St. Clair counties have consistently been ranked by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) as two of the worst judicial hellholes in the country. Madison County was ranked number three in 2012 and St. Clair County was on the group's watch list last year. The ATRA publishes its annual list in December.

“The Metro East is widely viewed as the ‘Lawsuit Abuse Capital of America’ and a ‘personal injury lawyer’s playground,’” said Travis Akin, I-LAW executive director. “The Metro East is plagued by an epidemic of lawsuit abuse that hinders job growth and clogs our courts.”

Akin promoted events on Oct. 8 outside the Madison County and St. Clair county courthouses encouraging individuals to serve on juries, take personal responsibility and become smart legal consumers.

The reform group's awareness theme this year is: Stopping Lawsuit Abuse Starts With You.

Akin helped people become aware of their role in lawsuit abuse by distributing legal consumer guides outside the courthouse. He said citizens should take time to serve on juries rather than look for reasons to get out of jury duty and they should refrain from filing "silly" lawsuits, which sends the message that ridiculous lawsuits are acceptable.

“While our legislators should move quickly to pass common sense legal reforms that will restore fairness to Illinois courts,” Akin said, “you can’t legislate personal responsibility. It’s up to us to be smart legal consumers, to show up for jury service and to do all that we can [to] ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed.”

I-LAW will be traveling more than 1,000 miles across the state to meet with local leaders and spread the word about the need to create a more favorable job creation climate by stopping lawsuit abuse in Illinois.

“Personal injury lawyers have turned the ‘Land of Lincoln’ into the ‘Land of Lawsuits.’” Akin said. “They flock to Illinois to file their frivolous lawsuits in our state’s notoriously plaintiff-friendly courts, and as a result, Illinois business owners constantly are thinking about leaving Illinois. Money spent fighting abusive lawsuits is money down the drain.”

Some local mayors have joined in the fight against lawsuit abuse with Akin.

Michael McCormick, mayor of Godfrey, supports Akin’s initiative and said it is a state-wide problem, not just centralized in Madison and St. Clair counties.

“It’s a very important issue with the whole state of Illinois,” McCormick said. “I think we are 46 out of the 50 states in judicial fairness. In my position as mayor of Godfrey, we are trying to do everything we can [to fight against lawsuit abuse].”

For more information regarding Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, visit their website at ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org.

More News