CHICAGO – A study released by the Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) shows the Windy City spent nearly $85 million for litigation costs in 2010.
I-LAW Executive Director Travis Akin said the city's litigation expenditure of $84.6 million in 2010 could have been better spent on public safety, health and education personnel, services for seniors and road projects.
"It has become painfully clear that the City of Chicago is perceived as an easy mark by some personal injury lawyers and has earned a reputation not as 'The City That Works' but as 'The City That Settles,'" Akin stated in a press release.
Akin also noted that in the last three years, Chicago has been sued 900 times, "which means city government is sued almost every single day," he said.
"Shedding that costly reputation and committing to aggressively fighting lawsuits filed against the City could help save tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, allowing the City to shore up the budget, hire more cops and teachers and avoid more crippling cuts."
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association Jerry Latherow called the report "slanted."
"This 'report,' published by an anti-consumer group, spins very limited information into a conclusion that fits their bias," Latherow said in a written response.
"The study fails to mention the types of lawsuits brought against the city and instead chooses to highlight a case that was a lawsuit between family members," Latherow said.
"In fact, many of the cases filed involving the city are eminent domain, zoning and other business matters totally unrelated to personal injury and wrongful death claims. They fail to acknowledge the hundreds of cases filed due to the police torture from years ago."
Akin stated in the release that I-LAW is urging Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to follow the lead taken two years ago by the Chicago Police Department (CPD), which in 2009 began to fight rather than settle lawsuits.
He said CPD's stance against lawsuits has worked. According to Akin, the number of lawsuits filed against CPD dropped 50 percent from 2009 to 2010, and in lawsuits involving payouts under $100,000, the city's liability costs were reduced by more than $7 million.
"Chicago could send a clear message to some personal injury lawyers and potential plaintiffs who are merely looking for 'jackpot justice' by demonstrating that lawsuits will be fought aggressively and not quickly settled," Akin said. "The longer the City fails to act on this important issue, the longer potential plaintiffs and aggressive personal injury lawyers will continue to target city taxpayers' pockets with frivolous lawsuits against the City."
In compiling its report, "Chicago: The City That Settles," I-LAW states that it analyzed city law department documents, which show that combining judgments and settlements, costs and fees and outside legal counsel costs, the city spent nearly $85 million in 2010.
Akin said that for comparison sake, the City of Naperville, which has a population of 141,853, spent $15,375 on judgments and settlements and outside counsel in 2010. He said that means the City of Chicago, which has 18 times the population of Naperville, spent over 5,528 times what Naperville spent on litigation costs last year.
Latherow said the group that produced the study "has twisted the facts to create a PR stunt in an effort to paint an unfair and inaccurate picture of the courts in Cook County."
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City of Chicago
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association