Travis Akin Nov. 13, 2015, 8:13am


Most people, if they sat on a small stool and it collapsed, would get up, brush themselves off and maybe return the stool for a new one.

Most people wouldn’t think, “What a great chance to file a lawsuit!” But that’s what appears a former Madison County judge-turned personal injury lawyer is doing.

Former Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron has filed a lawsuit in Madison County court against Wal-Mart after he fell off the pre-assembled stool he bought from the retail store.

A former judge falling off a stool and filing lawsuits is a glimpse into the depth of the lawsuit abuse epidemic in Madison County. Most people falling from a collapsing stool would probably not even tell anyone about it let alone file a lawsuit.

This appears to be yet another example of personal injury lawyers gaming the system in the Metro-East, a place that is often referred to as the “Lawsuit Abuse Capital of Amerca.” Madison and St. Clair County courts have become a personal playground for personal injury lawyers who are often the biggest campaign donors to judges here.

With examples like this of the cozy connections between personal injury lawyers and judges, is it any wonder Madison County is one of the worst “Judicial Hellholes” in the country? It is shenanigans like this that has cemented Madison County’s reputation as a haven for personal injury lawyers and a hell for local businesses who are frequently the targets of these junk lawsuits.

Lawsuits like this lead to higher prices for consumers, laid off employees and businesses leaving the area because of the big lawsuit bulls-eye on their back. As importantly, the Metro-East’s lawsuit abuse epidemic is making it extremely hard to attract new employers and the badly-needed jobs they would bring.

This view is backed up by the release last month of the 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey, conducted by Harris Poll, which ranked Illinois near the bottom of the nation in terms of its lawsuit environment – 48th worst of the 50 states. The survey also ranked Madison County the third-worst city or county for lawsuit fairness.

The survey results came from interviews of more than 1,200 corporate lawyers and senior executives at companies with more than $100 million in revenue. More than 75 percent of the business leaders surveyed by Harris Poll for this report say lawsuit climate is a “significant factor” in determining where to expand and grow.

For far too long, the Metro-East has been a magnet for personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs from all over the country who travel here and clog our courts with junk lawsuits that have nothing to do with this area, all in the hopes of striking it rich playing our region’s plaintiff-friendly lawsuit lottery.

We need to create jobs in Illinois, not more lawsuits, which is why Illinois needs Governor Rauner’s reasonable, common sense lawsuit reforms, which will create jobs and unclog our courts. Former Judge Byron’s lawsuit says a lot about Madison County, and what it says more than anything is that Illinois needs real, meaningful lawsuit reform to stop personal injury lawyers from gaming the system so that they win, and we lose.

Travis Akin is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

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