BY TRAVIS AKIN
Governor Bruce Rauner’s call for reasonable lawsuit reforms represents a vital step in an economic comeback in Illinois.
The time for lawsuit reform is long overdue. For years, attempts to enact meaningful lawsuit reform has been met with fierce resistance in the Illinois General Assembly and unfortunately this year is no exception.
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch applauds the Governor’s commitment to lawsuit reform legislation and urges Illinois residents to call their lawmakers and make their support for the Governor’s agenda known to their elected Representatives and Senators.
One of the Governor’s lawsuit reform measure is a proposal to stop personal injury lawyers from shopping around for the friendliest court jurisdiction, even if the lawsuit has nothing to do with that jurisdiction.
This practice, often called “venue shopping,” is all too common in Illinois. For far too long, Illinois has been a magnet for personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs from all over the country who travel to Illinois and clog our courts with junk lawsuits that have nothing to do with Illinois, all in the hopes of striking it rich playing our state’s plaintiff-friendly lawsuit lottery.
It’s just common sense to require lawsuits filed in Illinois to have an actual connection to Illinois, and yet in one notorious personal injury lawyer friendly Illinois county 98% of the asbestos lawsuits filed there are from plaintiffs who do not live in that county. That is an absurd misuse of our courts and our tax dollars, and it victimizes all of us.
Illinois is ranked the fifth worst state in the country for legal fairness, according to a report from the non-partisan research company Harris Interactive. Illinois is actually losing jobs, as companies have moved across our borders to states such as Wisconsin which recently passed common sense lawsuit reforms to make it less likely for businesses to be frivolously sued.
Another piece of Governor Rauner’s lawsuit reform legislation deals with joint and several liability. For far too long, there has been a lawsuit target on the back of every business owner in Illinois. That’s because current Illinois law allows personal injury lawyers to target citizens and small businesses for lawsuits based on perceived ability to pay rather than degree of responsibility.
That means even if others are responsible for an injury, you could be made to pay all of the damages, and that makes every Illinois business a potential ‘deep pocket’ that could be targeted in a lawsuit. We should all be responsible for our actions, but being forced to pay for damages caused by other people is not fair and is not how our legal system is intended to be used. The only people who benefit from the current system are personal injury lawyers.
Illinois ranked dead last in the Midwest in per capita new payroll jobs added to the economy in 2014 while Iowa ranked 14th and Wisconsin 20th, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We need to create jobs in Illinois, not more lawsuits, which is why Governor Rauner should be applauded for taking the lead to weed out junk lawsuits here and restore fairness to our courts. Governor Rauner’s reasonable, common sense lawsuit reforms will create jobs and unclog our courts, which will speed the legal process for those with legitimate claims. The time for common sense lawsuit reform is now.
Travis Akin is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch.