Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan is ideally situated to perpetuate himself and fellow Democrat lawmakers in office by soliciting campaign contributions from lobbyists looking for legislation that benefits their interests. Trial lawyers comprise one of the wealthiest blocs, and they know from experience that they’ll get what they pay for when they donate to Madigan.
Last year, fifteen plaintiff firms helped return Madigan and his minions to office by contributing more than $3.4 million to the Madigan Mob. That group of favor-seekers included asbestos litigators Simmons Hanly Conroy, Cooney & Conway, and Gori, Julian – and a host of personal injury firms.
Now it’s payback time, and Madigan is rewarding his supporters with litigation-promoting legislation.
In March, the legislature passed (and Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker has now signed) a bill lifting restrictions on when workers suffering from asbestos-related and other occupational diseases must file suit against an employer.
Senate Bill 1596 changes provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act and Workers’ Occupational Disease Act that had imposed a 25-year statute of repose for occupational injury and a three-year statute for occupational disease, thus overturning the 2015 Illinois Supreme Court decision in Folta v. Ferro Engineering that time-barred a worker from bringing a lawsuit against a former employer 41 years after he worked for the business.
The new law also undermines the principle of exclusive remedy via workers’ compensation and expands the concept of latent injury. In other words, it creates more and unprecedented opportunities for trial lawyers.
Another bad piece of legislation awaiting Pritzker’s signature is House Bill 2233, which eliminates “special interrogatories” - questions that attorneys ask jurors to make sure they understand the instructions given to them in complex civil suits before they begin deliberating. In other words, some trial attorneys would prefer to have befuddled jurors.
Both pro-plaintiff bills passed with ease. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 98, calling for transparency in asbestos bankruptcy claims, got shuttled to a committee where unpopular bills go to die.
As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. They do in Illinois, that’s for sure.