The Metro-East, internationally known as a favorite destination for out-of-state personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs looking to cash in playing the lawsuit lottery, has cemented its status as the “Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the U.S.” with Madison County being named today to a list of the nation’s “Worst Judicial Hellholes.” 

The annual report on the nation’s worst “Judicial Hellholes” comes from the American Tort Reform Foundation, which defines a “judicial hellhole” as “a place where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner.” That statement is especially true of the Metro-East. 

For far too long, Madison and St. Clair Counties have been a magnet for personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs from all over the country who clog our courts with junk lawsuits that have nothing to do with the Metro-East, all in the hopes of striking it rich playing our region’s plaintiff-friendly lawsuit lottery. Greedy personal injury lawyers have turned the “Land of Lincoln” into the “Land of Lawsuits,” and that is hurting job creation efforts in the Metro-East and throughout Illinois. 

These personal injury lawyers spend millions on ubiquitous TV ads and billboards that encourage people to sue, resulting in a flood of frivolous lawsuits that clog Metro-East courts and delay justice for people with legitimate claims. 

Even in cases when these junk lawsuits are eventually lost, the cost of fighting frivolous lawsuits often forces companies to raise prices, which means aggressive personal injury lawyers are responsible for a “lawsuit tax” that’s added on to everything Metro-East residents buy. Studies have shown this “lawsuit tax” adds up to over $800 per year for every person in Illinois, or over $3,000 for a family of four. 

Personal injury lawyers also give millions to Illinois judges in campaign contributions, so we should not be surprised that the court system in Madison and St. Clair counties is so out of balance and so favorable to plaintiffs.  

Judges will soon start asking us for our votes, and we should ask them if they will take campaign money from personal injury lawyers or if they will stand up to them and impose sanctions on those who file job-killing frivolous lawsuits in their courts. 

Judges can create jobs by stopping lawsuit abuse in their courts. If we want to keep our jobs and attract new ones, we need judges who will not allow the Metro-East to remain a “Judicial Hellhole.” 

The “Judicial Hellholes” report also points to the recent moves by Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons to hire personal injury lawyers to sue pharmaceutical companies over their production, marketing and distribution of federally regulated opioid-based pain-relievers. 

In 2016, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons raised approximately $124,000 for his political campaign fund. Of that $124,000, about $100,000 came from law firms – law firms that are likely in line for work in potential opioid litigation and law firms that are likely to continue donating to his campaign. 

More education on opioid addiction and new legislation to better regulate opioids are ways we as a society can prevent future tragedies. But just exactly how does putting a windfall of cash into the hands of personal injury lawyers do anything to resolve the opioid problem? Furthermore, what guarantees do we have the money counties and cities collect from these lawsuits will actually go to addressing public health concerns? The truth is we don’t. 

The bottom line is personal injury lawyers are gaming the system to their advantage. Christmas comes but once a year for most of us, but for these personal injury lawyers who have turned the Madison and St. Clair County courthouses into their own personally profitable playground, it’s Christmas every day. 

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) is a grassroots watchdog group of concerned citizens, community leaders and small business people dedicated to educating the public about the widespread costs of lawsuit abuse. I-LAW has more than 20,000 supporters throughout Illinois. Anyone interested in becoming a supporter of I-LAW or learning more about stopping lawsuit abuse in Illinois can visit www.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org.

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