To the Editor:
More than 70 percent of Illinois lawsuits are filed by businesses suing businesses for money. The number of civil cases filed in Illinois courts is down 26 percent since 2007. And the number of medical malpractice cases also has steadily declined – it’s down nearly 40 percent since 2003.
These are the basic facts of Illinois’ civil justice system. Travis Akin, a paid lobbyist of a front group for wealthy and corporate special interests, conveniently ignored them in his recent letter. Instead he regurgitated bogus “studies” and spouted the loaded phrase “judicial hellhole” to try and scare citizens into giving up their constitutional right to hold negligent drivers, polluters, careless professionals and companies that cut corners when it comes to their employees’ safety responsible for their dangerous actions.
The fact is that there is no correlation between our state’s civil justice system and the economy. Just look to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business – lawsuits ranked 71st on a list of the 75 chief concerns of small businesses.
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 help create. No fewer than 33 of the nation’s largest companies on the Fortune 500 list call Illinois home.
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. This would hardly be the case if Illinois actually were the so-called “Land of Lawsuits.”
The real “judicial hellhole” is the one that corporate front groups such as I-LAW wish to create: a court system in which ordinary citizens have no chance for fair treatment and justice because their hard-won rights have been stripped away by powerful special interests.
Illinois courts are fair and they provide an avenue for victims of wrongdoing to hold wrongdoers accountable. Our legal system serves as a powerful deterrent against corporate misconduct; by design, the very few suits that are without merit are quickly dismissed.
Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner would do well to recognize that Illinois’ civil justice system truly serves the interest of our most vulnerable citizens by holding wrongdoers accountable. He should focus on real solutions to fix our state’s economy.
John D. Cooney
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, President