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Press Release - May 25, 2013

Legal Watchdog Group Joins With Rockford Leaders For "Create Jobs, Not Lawsuits" Forum

Forum focuses on how Rockford is losing jobs to Wisconsin, which recently enacted meaningful lawsuit reforms as a way to keep jobs in-state and attract jobs from Illinois

(Rockford) - Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), State Senator Dave Syverson, State Representative John Cabello, Winnebago County Chairman Scott Christiansen and other community leaders are joining together today to host a "Create Jobs, Not Lawsuits" forum, where participants will discuss how lawsuit abuse is hampering job creation in Rockford and pushing businesses to move up the road to Wisconsin, which recently passed a series of lawsuit reforms.

Illinois was recently ranked the fifth-worst state in the country for lawsuit abuse by the respected non-partisan research company Harris Interactive. To make matters worse, the Wisconsin legislature recently passed a package of lawsuit reforms that has made their state's civil justice system more balanced and more hospitable to companies looking to expand or relocate there.

At a press conference preceding the "Create Jobs, Not Lawsuits" forum held at Veterans Memorial Hall, speakers discussed how businesses are looking to relocate from the Rockford area across the border to Wisconsin and why the Illinois legislature must respond by passing common sense lawsuit reforms.

"Illinois' status as the 'Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest' and Wisconsin's recent actions to make their state less lawsuit-friendly are costing Rockford badly-needed jobs," said Travis Akin, Executive Director of I-LAW, a non-partisan, grassroots legal watchdog. "Personal injury lawyers have turned the 'Land of Lincoln' into the 'Land of Lawsuits.' They flock to Illinois to file their frivolous lawsuits in our state's notoriously plaintiff-friendly courts, and as a result, Illinois businesses flee to Wisconsin, a state that has taken steps to stop lawsuit abuse in their courts.

"Today, we are calling on the leaders of the Illinois General Assembly to help stem the tide of businesses leaving for Wisconsin by passing common sense lawsuit reforms that will restore fairness to Illinois courts."

The current unemployment rate in Illinois is 9.5 percent, while the national average in 7.7%. Only six states have a higher unemployment rate than Illinois. Rockford's unemployment rate rose to a whopping 13% in January, and last year, Winnebago County lost more than 1,600 residents, which is more population loss than any other Illinois County.

"Surrounding states have made lawsuit reform a priority, but the leadership of the Illinois General Assembly continues to block efforts to make our state less of a magnet for lawsuits," said State Sen. Dave Syverson. "We risk losing more jobs to Wisconsin until we make a serious effort to improve the business climate in Illinois. Enacting meaningful lawsuit reforms is an important step needed to make Illinois truly open for business."

Participants at the "Create Jobs, Not Lawsuits" forum will share stories of how lawsuit abuse impacts their operations. At the press conference that preceded the forum, Tom Churchill, who owns the Save-A-Lot store in Rockford, said his store has at least one frivolous lawsuit filed against it per year. It has gotten so bad that he now has 11 cameras installed in the store just to guard against litigation.

"We had one case where a woman claimed she had fallen at spot where an ice machine had left a few drops of water on the floor," Churchill said. "When we went back and looked at the security film, we saw her pass by the water and go to the checkout lane. Then she went back to the water and ran her foot through the drops to make it look like she had slipped. Even in a clearly frivolous case like this one, we had to pay to defend ourselves, and the costs of continually fighting frivolous lawsuits is making it very hard to keep businesses here in Illinois."

Akin concluded, "Illinois needs to create jobs, not more lawsuits. Today, Rockford-area leaders are standing together to call on the leaders of the General Assembly to finally make our state less of a magnet for junk lawsuits and more of a magnet for jobs."

Watch news interviews relating to Rockford's "Create Jobs, Not Lawsuits" Forum.

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