Every day we seem to be inundated with yet even more grim economic news. The nation, the experts tell us, is headed for a recession. And so, while the nation's economy appears to be teetering at the moment, Illinois is in the uncomfortable position of facing the possibility of a recession without the luxury of ever fully recovering from the last one.
From 2001-2006, the United States economy added about 4.3 million jobs. During that same time period, Illinois managed to lose 60,000 jobs. The economic growth enjoyed by the rest of the nation simply has never materialized here in Illinois.
One reason for this is Illinois' unfair and unbalanced civil justice system. Illinois is ranked 46th in the country for judicial fairness, and just last week and the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) released the 2008 Tort Liability Index report, which ranks Illinois 47th in the country for tort costs and 46th in the nation for tort laws.
This report confirms what we already know to be true – Illinois is "The Lawsuit Magnet of the Midwest." For far too long, we have been engaged in the illogical practice of importing lawsuits while at the same time exporting jobs and opportunities.
After all, what company is going to build a new business or expand an existing one in a state where becoming the target of a lawsuit is not only probable but in all likelihood inevitable?
Despite the lack of economic growth in Illinois, our lawmakers continue to side with powerful personal injury lawyers against the will of Illinois citizens.
While meaningful lawsuit reforms such as venue reform or expert witness testimony reform cannot even get to the floor for a vote, legislation making it easier for plaintiffs' lawyers to collect even after a person is dead easily advances through the legislative process.
Illinois will continue to be a strong magnet for out-of-state personal injury lawyers and continue to repel jobs until our legislators pass a common sense venue reform bill that requires plaintiffs to file lawsuits in the county where the alleged loss or damage took place.
A bill under consideration in the Illinois House – HB 5289 – will do just that by setting reasonable guidelines for where a lawsuit can be filed, which will finally demagnetize Illinois' harmful lawsuit magnets.
As our economy continues to slide, we need to act quickly to turn things around. We all need to stand together and put pressure on our lawmakers to do the right thing and make restoring fairness to our courts a top priority.