Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) rolled a traveling billboard around the state capitol prior to Wednesday's committee hearing in protest of SB1296.
The House Judiciary Committee has passed Senate Bill 1296, a proposal that in effect shifts the burden of compensation to the party with the most money rather than the most responsibility in tort cases.
Supported by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, the bill would shift liability in many personal injury cases from the party most responsible, to the party with the most financial resources
The bill passed along party lines, 8-6, this morning in Springfield.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) voted with the majority.
Dubbed by opponents as a "money grab" bill, SB1296 will move on to the full House.
The Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL), Illinois Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), Illinois Insurance Association, Illinois Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce have been staunchly against the measure.
"This bill is a slap in the face at fairness, it is a slap in the face of Illinois employers, and it is a slap in the face of common sense," said Ed Murnane, president of ICJL, who pointed out that, under SB 1296, a defendant could be held 100 percent liable in a lawsuit where he or she is only five percent at fault.
Added Murnane, "Fairness and common sense demand that people or institutions that cause injury and damage should be held accountable based on their degree of responsibility – not the deepness of their pocketbook."
Murnane noted that the legislation is opposed by a diverse coalition of groups, including many units of government, such as the City of Chicago, Illinois Municipal League, Illinois Association of Park Districts, the Park District Risk Management Association and the 77-member municipalities of the Illinois Risk Management Association.
"Cities, counties and other municipal bodies are considered 'deep pockets' because they can raise funds through taxation, and would be prime targets under this legislation," said Murnane.
"While the headlines have been grabbed by tax increase and rate freeze proposals, the trial lawyers have quietly advanced this bill," said Murnane.
"But crunch time is here now, and members of the Illinois House must now choose between protecting their districts' employers, or lining the pockets of greedy trial lawyers getting rich at our expense."
Lance Trover, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, said it was unfortunate that the bill passed out of committee.
"For a number of years the voters have been demanding positive change in our legal system," Trover said. "This is not the type of change they are demanding. Illinoisans will be watching closely over the days ahead to see if their elected officials stand up for the personal injury lawyers or the hard working men and women of Illinois."