Press Release - December 16, 2014
ILLINOIS ONE OF THE NATION'S WORST "JUDICIAL HELLHOLES" ACCORDING TO NEW NATIONAL REPORT
I-LAW: Illinois is a magnet for personal injury lawyers and frivolous lawsuits filed by out-of-state plaintiffs; new legislation pushed through in veto session as gift to trial lawyers
will make Illinois even friendlier to junk lawsuits and less friendly to job creation
(Marion) - Illinois continues to be a magnet for lawsuit abuse and remains the home to one of the nation's worst "judicial hellholes," according to the annual "Judicial Hellholes" report released today by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). The report named Madison County pone of the "Five Worst Judicial Hellholes" in the country.
ATRF 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 Illinois, explained Travis Akin, Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), a non-partisan, grassroots legal watchdog group. "Personal injury lawyers continue to target Illinois courts with frivolous lawsuits filed on behalf of out-of-state plaintiffs, and far too often judges here allow cases to proceed with plaintiffs who have no connection to Illinois," said Akin. "This kind of abuse clogs Illinois courts, wasting taxpayer resources and delaying justice for people with legitimate claims."
Madison County has become the favorite destination for personal injury lawyers filing asbestos-related lawsuits, almost always on behalf of out-of-state plaintiffs. Specifically:
- Only 1 in 10 of the lawsuits filed in Madison County is filed by a plaintiff who ever worked or lived in the county.
- Statistics show the problem is getting worse: In 2006, asbestos filings in Madison County reached a low point of 325. Since then, the number of asbestos filings has increased each year to 455 in 2007, 639 in 2008, 814 in 2009, 840 in 2010, 953 in 2011 and 1,563 in 2012 and a new record of 1,678 in 2013.
- Despite having only .08 % of the U.S. population, Madison County now accounts for one in four asbestos lawsuits filed in the U.S.
Now, even more asbestos lawsuits could be filed in Illinois, as a result of surprise legislation pushed by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association in the 11th hour of the recently concluded fall veto session of the Illinois General Assembly. The legislation (SB 2221) eliminates the state's 10-year "statute of repose" on the exposure to asbestos on building sites during construction projects, which means lawsuits arising from asbestos exposure at construction sites will have no time restrictions.
"For far too long, Illinois has been a haven for frivolous lawsuits, which has driven away businesses and kept other employers from moving here," explained Akin. "Aggressive personal injury lawyers have transformed Illinois from the 'Land of Lincoln' into the 'Land of Lawsuits,' and now they've worked behind the scenes to pass legislation that will make it even easier for them to file lawsuits here.
"This 11th hour backroom money grab is the ultimate Christmas present for personal injury lawyers and a lump of coal in the stockings of all Illinois residents because it will result in more lawsuits and ultimately fewer jobs and opportunities for Illinois residents."
Illinois has long been viewed as "personal injury lawyer's paradise" and was ranked 46th out of 50 states for legal fairness in a recent report from the non-partisan Harris Research Company. Illinois' lawsuit climate ranked beneath every bordering state including: Indiana (14), Iowa (10), Kentucky (38), Missouri (34), and Wisconsin (15).
The Wisconsin legislature recently passed lawsuit reforms that legislators said were designed to make their state more attractive to businesses and lure jobs from Illinois. "By passing common sense lawsuit reforms, Wisconsin legislators have made their state more attractive to businesses," Akin said. "Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner has promised to make lawsuit reform a big part of his efforts to revitalize the Illinois economy. Hopefully, the Governor-Elect and lawmakers in Springfield will see how lawsuit reforms are working in other states and will work to make Illinois a destination for jobs, not more lawsuits."
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