To the Editor:
It’s that time of year again, when a front group well-funded by big corporations and the insurance industry spreads misinformation, downright lies and uses disparaging terms such as “Land of Lawsuits” and “jackpot justice” to describe our state’s civil justice system. This annual observance should be seen for what it really is: a desperate attempt to distort public understanding of our state’s judicial system to influence the public and juries.
I-LAW – the front group behind the so-called annual “Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week” – specializes in sowing confusion and demonizing our civil justice system on behalf of its generous benefactors who hope to maximize profits and shift the responsibility of caring for those sickened or injured by their reckless conduct onto taxpayers.
What isn’t mentioned is the true motive behind I-LAW’s calls for “lawsuit reform”: putting profits before people. The only lawsuit crisis in Illinois is the one made up by this front group trying to saddle the state’s taxpayers with the costs of caring for those who are injured or the survivors of those killed due to corporate negligence.
The reality is that very few injured Americans file lawsuits. The number of civil cases filed in Illinois has dropped 26 percent since 2007. More than 70 percent of the cases in our courts today are filed by businesses suing other business or individuals for money.
In Madison County – a favorite target for I-LAW – the number of asbestos cases filed is down 22 percent in just the last 2 years. On average, only once case per year has gone to trial over the past decade and most cases end up settling before going to a jury. However, I-LAW won’t be satisfied until there are no cases filed.
I-LAW uses bogus studies layered with false and distorted claims about our state’s civil justice system in an effort to bolster its claims that lawsuits are somehow hurting our state’s economy and killing job growth. Nothing could be further than the truth. There is no correlation between our state’s economy and the civil justice system. Just look to a recent study done by the National Federation of Independent Business which ranked lawsuits 71st on a list of the 75 chief concerns of small businesses.
The so-called “reforms” sought by I-LAW and its big business and insurance industry backers will only undercut the constitutional rights of citizens injured due to the wrongdoing of others. When a person is brain damaged, mutilated, rendered paraplegic or suffers another grievous harm as a result of another’s negligence, but cannot obtain fair compensation from the culpable party through our courts because the laws have been rigged against them, the healthcare and other financial supports for that individuals and his family will be borne by the taxpayers.
I-LAW’s donors don’t truly fear so-called “frivolous lawsuits” because they know our justice system filters out cases without merit. What they fear are meritorious lawsuits – actions brought by citizens against those putting others’ children or loved ones at risk of injury or death.
Illinois courts provide a level playing field for individuals to force wrongdoers to make amends – even the wealthiest people and companies that, in other spheres of our government, exert vastly disproportionate influence over decision-making.
This week should be recognized for what it is – a deplorable call to strip middle and lower income Illinoisans of their constitutional right to access the courts that their taxpayer dollars fund.
Perry Browder, President
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association