CHICAGO – Illinois has "a recipe for disaster" when it comes to dishing out a good legal climate, according to a video by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, which owns this publication.
Illinois' legal climate ranked 48 out of 50 in the institute's 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States, which was conducted by Harris Poll and surveyed senior business executives on their experiences with state lawsuit environments. The survey was released on Sept. 12.
Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard
"Listen up," a celebrity chef impersonator says in the video. "You've all cooked up awful lawsuit climates - that is for everyone but the trial lawyers. Wake up! Illinois, you're one of the worst. Your courts are stuffed with lawsuits from people who don't even live there."
Illinois ranked lower than 47th-placed California and ahead of Missouri and Louisiana, which ranked 49 and 50, respectively, according to the survey.
Illinois' most-recent ranking marks the second time since 2015 that the state ranked the nation's third-worst for legal climate in the annual survey, which was first released in 2002. Illinois has ranked among the bottom five states in the survey for the past decade.
That can have serious business repercussions in a state already plagued with other problems, according to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
"This perception of Illinois’ poor litigation climate is critical," the institute said in a statement. "An all-time high 85 percent of survey participants said that a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact their company’s decisions about where to locate or expand."
The state's poor business climate is attracting the kind of attention the state doesn't want or need, Lisa A. Rickard, president of the Institute for Legal Reform, said in the statement.
"Plaintiffs’ lawyers flock to Illinois to file lawsuits for people who don’t even live there, clogging the courts and gaming the system,” she said. "If Illinois could attract companies at the same rate it is now attracting lawsuits, it could improve the state’s dismal economic outlook and create more jobs."
Cook County has been on the American Tort Reform Foundation's Judicial Hellholes list since 2005 and has hosted nearly two-thirds of Illinois litigation. Cook, Madison and St. Clair counties together rank No. 6 on the tort reform foundation's most-recent Judicial Hellholes list for being counties where "no civil defendant wants to face a lawsuit," the Judicial Hellholes site states.
Illinois' low rating on the Institute for Legal Reform survey resulted from how the state handles tort and contract litigation, according to the institute's statement.
"Both Cook and Madison counties in Illinois act as lawsuit magnets for cases both from around the state and the country," the institute said in the statement. "In 2015, 63 percent of Cook County’s lawsuits were filed by non-residents. Madison County’s national reputation as a plaintiff-friendly court is also backed by statistics—28 percent of all asbestos lawsuits nationwide were filed there in 2016, and over 83 percent of them came from outside Illinois."
Survey participants included 1,203 in-house general counsels, senior litigators or attorneys and other senior executives at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million who said they knew about litigation matters, according to the survey.
Participants were reached through more than 1,300 telephone and online interviews between March 31 and June 26, according to the institute's statement. Participants were asked for rankings about topics such as the fairness of a given state's lawsuit environments in 10 categories, including state laws, courts, judges and juries.
The institute also issued the 2017 edition of its "101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems," a listing of key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates.