Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) is beginning a grassroots campaign to get meaningful lawsuit reforms passed, which will in turn create a more favorable job creation climate, said its executive director Travis Akin.
I-LAW also is working to oppose a bill proposed by personal injury lawyers that will "stimulate lawsuits, not jobs," according to Akin.
He said the intent of Senate Bill 184, which would require defendants in civil lawsuits to pay prejudgment interest on damage awards from the moment the claim is filed, is "to intimidate and force defendants into an early settlement long before the facts of the case are fully known."
"The culture of lawsuit abuse in Illinois has created a situation where we are importing lawsuits and exporting jobs and opportunities," Akin said in a statement. "It defies logic to expect Illinois' economy to grow under these crippling circumstances even in good economic times, but in the midst of a severe recession, our state's reputation as a personal injury lawyer's paradise and a magnet for lawsuits is making a bad jobs climate even worse."
Akin cited a report by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which shows that Illinois has ranked 45th out of 50 states for job creation during the last six years.
Akin also said that according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois lost 100,000 jobs in 2008, and in the last 10 years, there have been 736,000 more Americans leave Illinois than have moved here.
Akin compared the current job-loss crisis to the health care crisis many Illinoisans faced a few years ago when doctors were leaving the state due to skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates.
"Illinois needs to be able to compete with other states to attract jobs and opportunities, and restoring some balance to Illinois' severely out-of-balance civil justice system will keep jobs here and attract new ones," Akin said. "Passing common sense lawsuit reforms to require lawsuits filed here to actually have some real connection to Illinois will stop out-of-state personal injury lawyers from targeting our state as a great place to file a lawsuit."
To mobilize grassroots support for lawsuit reform and against Senate Bill 184, I-LAW is urging its 10,000 supporters to call and e-mail their legislators. Akin is also traveling throughout the state, speaking with community and business groups to encourage them to contact their legislators.
"The need for reform is real, but the legislative leaders in Springfield continue to prevent reform initiatives from advancing," Akin said. "With primary elections now less than a year away, lawmakers would be wise to heed their constituents' calls for common sense lawsuit reforms."