To the Editor:
Big industry and insurance company lobbyist Travis Akin’s recently published column was just another spin on the same old tired rant that is full of false claims and distorted facts that he likes to rehash over and over again. He calls Illinois the “Land of Lawsuits” and demonizes our civil justice system by spreading false claims that lawsuits are responsible for keeping business away and our unemployment numbers high. The facts simply don’t support his claims.
Akin never seems to mention the fact that the number of civil lawsuits filed in Illinois has steadily declined since 2007, down nearly 25 percent. Instead he makes false claims that lawyers are filing “junk lawsuits” in an attempt to strike it rich. However, published statistics show injury lawsuits make up only 6 percent of all civil cases filed in state courts. Interestingly enough, it is his big industry and insurance company supporters who file most civil litigation, with nearly 70 percent of civil cases involving businesses suing other businesses or individuals over business disputes.
Business is thriving in Illinois and corporate profits are at record highs, even though many workers are not receiving their fair share of the growth they are helping create. Just look at the number of major corporations that call this state home – 33 of the nation’s largest companies on the Fortune 500 list are located in Illinois.
A survey done by Career Builder shows that Illinois ranks third in the nation for net growth in private sector businesses from 2009 to 2012 and that our state accounted for 14 percent of all net new establishments in the United States.
A 2012 survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business ranked lawsuits as 71st among the 75 issues that small businesses find important. Taxes, energy prices, and the cost of labor are far more important factors for a company deciding where to locate.
As the NFIB survey makes clear, businesses are not concerned about “junk lawsuits;” what they fear are meritorious ones - actions brought by citizens against entities injuring people, producing unsafe products, polluting, swindling the public, or otherwise acting irresponsibly.
Our civil justice system is essential in holding reckless drivers, polluters, careless professionals and negligent companies responsible for the injuries they cause. Akin’s true goal, when he is unmasked as a lobbyist for big industry and insurance companies, is to deny citizens access to the courts that their tax dollars fund. The “profits before people” mentality of Akin and his wealthy backers cannot be allowed to diminish the rights of the public who deserve a level playing field in our courts against such special interest groups.
John D. Cooney
President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.