A legislative proposal that shifts the burden of compensation to the party with the most money rather than the most responsibility in tort cases will be debated in a state House committee hearing on May 16.

Dubbed by opponents as a "money grab," Senate Bill 1296 easily passed in the state Senate last month despite fierce opposition from business groups.

The vote came down along party lines, 34-23-1. Metro-East Senators James Clayborne (D-East St. Louis) and Bill Haine (D-Alton) voted in favor of Senate Bill 1296.

The Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL), Illinois Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), Illinois Insurance Association, Illinois Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce are staunchly opposed to the measure.

Ed Murnane, president of the ICJL, has said the bill disregards responsibility for wrongdoing and shifts it "almost totally to the size of the pocket."

Steve Puiszis, president of the IADC, wrote, "If enacted, Senate Bill 1296 will put Illinois further out of step with its neighbors, out of step with fairness, out of step with common sense and drop Illinois deeper into the tort 'hellhole' category that drives businesses out of Illinois."

Another "anti-business" proposal being watched by business and tort reform groups appears to be bottled up in the Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 747 would allow compensation to plaintiffs and their lawyers for amounts that were not actually lost.

Sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, SB 747 bill is similar to one introduced last year dubbed the "plaintiffs' windfall bill."

Murnane said the legislation doesn't require that the plaintiff receiving the windfall pay the extra recovery to the provider of the medical service.

"Instead, the plaintiff and his/her attorney reap the benefits of this added cost, a cost above and beyond the actual loss to the plaintiff," Murnane wrote.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), an "of counsel" member of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, sponsored a similar proposal in the state House last year. He drove an amended bill through a House committee, but the proposal died as many of its sponsors bailed amidst criticism that it was a trial lawyer "money grab."

SB 747 was referred to the Rules Committee on March 16 where it remains.

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Illinois Chamber of Commerce Illinois Manufacturers' Association

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