The election of Bruce Rauner as governor of Illinois will bring many changes to our state. Governor-elect Rauner has promised to “shake up Springfield,” and one area that definitely needs “shaking up” is the state’s notoriously unfair lawsuit climate, which attracts personal injury lawyers and lawsuits from all over the country, which consequently keeps jobs from being created here.
Illinois has a nationally recognized lawsuit abuse problem, which has led to the state being viewed more as the “land of Lawsuits” than the “Land of Lincoln.” Statistically, Illinois is ranked the fifth-worst state in the country for legal fairness, according to a report from the respected Harris Interactive polling company. Illinois is also home to Madison and St. Clair Counties, which are collectively ranked as two of the nation’s five worst “Judicial Hellholes” in the latest report from the American Tort Reform Association.
Prospective employers look to move to places where the legal system is fair, so having one of the nation’s most unfair lawsuit climates is clearly keeping businesses and the jobs they bring from moving to the Metro-East.
Even worse, some Illinois businesses are now leaving Illinois for neighboring states, which have a much fairer civil justice system. Wisconsin and Indiana have run ads in Illinois boasting about the lawsuit reforms they have recently passed and are encouraging Illinois businesses to flee across the border to locations where they are much less likely to be sued.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, when he was first elected four years ago, made reforming his state’s civil justice system a top priority and helped push through a package of lawsuit reforms in his first year in office. This led to some Illinois businesses packing up and moving across the border to Wisconsin.
To attract new employers – and, as importantly, keep others from leaving – Governor-elect Rauner should follow the lead of his counterpart to the north and make restoring fairness to our courts a top priority.
Too often, Illinois’ legendarily plaintiff-friendly courts serve as a magnet for lawsuits that have absolutely nothing to do with our state. In one Illinois county, only 1 in 10 of the asbestos-related lawsuits filed there were filed by a plaintiff who ever worked or lived in the county.
Personal injury lawyers clog our courts with lawsuits that have nothing to do with Illinois because they know they have a chance to strike it rich playing our state’s plaintiff-friendly lawsuit lottery.
Clearly, Illinois needs common sense lawsuit reforms that will restore fairness to our courts and ensure that Illinois is no longer a magnet for lawsuits. If Governor-elect Rauner is successful in pushing through these long overdue reforms – that will not cost the taxpayers one penny – Illinois can start being a magnet for jobs.
Travis Akin is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch.