It should not come as any surprise but personal injury lawyers have found a new way to game the system in Illinois.
According to a new report from the Illinois Civil Justice League - Illinois Asbestos Trust Transparency – personal injury lawyers are manipulating the timing of asbestos personal injury lawsuits to allow them to essentially double dip for the same injury.
Here is how it works. Plaintiffs’ attorneys file a claim in court against small businesses and other defendants. Then after the case is resolved they file claims against various asbestos trust funds which then allows them to get paid twice for the same claim. There is nothing wrong with filing claims against businesses currently doing business and also filing claims against the different trust funds set up by now bankrupt companies to pay asbestos claims. Plaintiffs have a right to collect from the companies that contributed to their asbestos exposure.
Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch | Courtesy of Travis Akin
The problem is that by waiting until after a court claim to file claims against asbestos trust funds, the trial court can only base a judgment or settlement on the exposure the defendants in the courtroom contributed to the asbestos exposure. Without any information on what role now bankrupt companies contributed to the exposure – the trial court has little choice but to hold the defendants in the court room 100 percent responsible for the damages.
This situation results in higher judgments and settlements. The lack of transparency in Illinois courts is costing businesses dearly and we all pay and we all lose as a result. According to the study, in 100 asbestos cases in Illinois examined, there was a failure to expose “double dipping” in 92 percent of the cases.
This study confirms what we already know here in Illinois. The Land of Lincoln has become the land of lawsuits. The lack of transparency in asbestos cases is costing small businesses dearly.
This is especially troubling given the fact that Missouri legislators are pushing through numerous lawsuit reforms to make their state more attractive to prospective employers.
The ‘Show Me State’ is showing Illinois how to make an abused lawsuit system fairer and more attractive to employers. If Illinois doesn’t follow Missouri’s lead, we can expect to see Illinois businesses leaving the ‘Sue Me State’ and crossing the Mississippi River for a state where they won’t have a lawsuit target on their backs.
Companies look to locate or expand where the litigation climate is fair. Surrounding states are leading the way when it comes to lawsuit reforms while here in Illinois there is little being done to enact the kind of reforms we so desperately need.
No one is saying that asbestos victims should not receive the compensation they are due. Absolutely, they should be made whole, but the process must be fair. It must be balanced. And it must be transparent. This is a reform everyone we all can and should get behind and support.