A giant billboard on wheels rolled through the Metro East Wednesday as Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) brought its "blow the whistle on lawsuit abuse" tour to town.Do you accept campaign contributions from personal injury lawyers who make their living from filing lawsuits?
Adopting a football theme for the voter education tour, I-LAW state director Paul Scheeler said the grassroots watchdog group he oversees is traveling across the state in recognition of "Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week."
The billboard in tow bears the image of a football referee who asks people to "blow the whistle on lawsuit abuse."
While on the Chicago-to-Carbondale tour, Scheeler is distributing "Ask Your Candidate" guides and whistles to draw attention to the high costs of lawsuit abuse.
Questions on the guide include:
Do you agree that frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards are problems in Illinois courtrooms?
What will you do about personal injury lawyers who file junk lawsuits?
Do you pledge to support venue reform?
Do you favor setting medical standards for asbestos lawsuits to help injured victims get the compensation they deserve?
"Borrowing a football term, every person in Illinois is tackled for a loss as a result of the rampant lawsuit abuse that has swept across our state in recent years," Scheeler said. "Our state's courts have been turned into a dumping ground and magnet for frivolous lawsuits, and as a consequence, we've earned the costly reputation as the 'Lawsuit Capital of the Midwest.' This dubious ranking affects everyone in our state because companies think twice about expanding or relocating operations here when they see that Illinois has become a magnet for lawsuits."
Scheeler said with election day less than a month away, voters should ask legislative and judicial candidates what they will do to restore fairness to Illinois courts.
"As voters begin to focus on the upcoming elections, it is time to find out if legislative and judicial candidates are willing to stand up to the powerful plaintiffs' bar by pledging to adopt common sense solutions to our lawsuit abuse problem," Scheeler said.
He cited the most recent Harris poll which ranked Illinois near the bottom--45th--of all states in a measure of legal fairness. He also said that another national study showed that Illinoisans pay an extra $886 per year in higher prices just to cover the cost of frivolous litigation.
"Judicial candidates should be asked if they will issue rules to make it harder for out-of-state personal injury lawyers to dump frivolous lawsuits in our courts," Scheeler said.
He said I-LAW also will be encouraging Illinois judges to enforce rules of conduct that are already in place.
"Judges already have the ability to sanction lawyers who repeatedly bring frivolous suits to court," Scheeler said.
The I-LAW tour began in the Chicago area and will finish at the end of the week in Carbondale.
Scheeler said he expects to hand out more than 1,000 whistles and 2,000 "Ask Your Candidate" guides.