Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Is today beginning of new 'tort reform' movement in Illinois?

By Ed Murnane | Jan 12, 2015


For the first time since the days of Governor Jim Edgar, Illinois now has a chief executive who believes the state needs to reform laws dealing with civil litigation.

Bruce Rauner talked about the need for tort reform in Illinois numerous times during his campaign and he repeated that call during his Election Night speech and definition of his goals, and also as he announced the members of his transition team shortly after his election.

ICJL's incoming president, John Pastuovic, has served on the Rauner Transition Team.

The Rauner Transition Team's report to the Governor-elect, released last week, included several references to the need for tort reform, including one which includes, in the description of "immediate actions:"

• Publicize the importance of tort reform and the effect of the legal system on the job market

The report also points out that "tort reform in Illinois could improve the legal environment, saving businesses $2.4 billion and creating up to 147,000 new jobs."

The Illinois Civil Justice League has a menu of more than a dozen civil justice reforms which would be beneficial to Illinois, but we have focused on two which we think would have the greatest impact. The incoming Rauner Administration is embracing them.

First is a law establishing "venue" requirements. It should require that lawsuits must be litigated within the county of the plaintiff, or the county of the defendant, or the county in which the alleged wrong-doing took place.

Illinois should not allow counties such as Madison and St. Clair become "judicial hellholes" because they invite litigation from throughout the nation, at the local or state taxpayers' expense.

Second, and there are mixed opinions on the legality of this, is that a cap (or a limit) be established on "non-economic damages," also known as "pain and suffering." Tort reformers in Illinois -- and elsewhere -- agree that an injured plaintiff should be entitled to all financial benefits necessary to make the plaintiff "whole." That includes lost wages, medical expenses, therapy or retraining or other costs that are the result of the wrong-doing.

Non-economic damages, or "pain and suffering," should be limited to a fixed dollar amount. Many states have such a limit and Illinois could enact an adjustable limit to allow Illinois to remain as one of the most generous judicial systems in the country.

The Illinois Civil Justice League welcomes our new Governor and we are enthused by his incoming administration's understanding and willingness to deal with challenging civil justice and judicial issues.

Bruce Rauner understands what needs to be done. That's good for Illinois.

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