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Press Release - September 10, 2015

New Report Ranks Illinois Third-Worst State In The Country For Legal Fairness And Lawsuit Abuse

I-LAW says Illinois' status as a haven for lawsuit abuse is keeping away employers and damaging job growth here, underscoring need for passage of Gov. Rauner's proposed lawsuit reforms

(Springfield) - It's official: Lawsuit abuse is getting worse in Illinois. That unwelcome news comes from a new national report released today from the survey company The Harris Poll, which ranks Illinois' lawsuit climate the third-worst in the country among all 50 states. In the last Harris Poll lawsuit climate survey, conducted in 2012, Illinois was ranked the fifth-worst state.

"No college football fan would be happy to see their team ranked the third-worst in the nation," said Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), a non-partisan grassroots legal watchdog, "and I know nobody is cheering Illinois being ranked the third-worst state for lawsuit abuse - except, perhaps, for the personal injury lawyers who flock to Illinois to play the lawsuit lottery in our state's notoriously plaintiff-friendly courts.

According to the Harris Poll report, 75 percent of the business leaders surveyed say lawsuit climate is a "significant factor" in determining where to expand and grow.

"The reality is companies look to move to states where the legal climate is fair, which is why Illinois' status as the third-worst state in the country for legal fairness is making it extremely difficult to attract new employers. Even worse, Illinois is actually losing jobs, as companies have moved across our borders to states like Wisconsin that have recently passed common sense lawsuit reforms to make it less likely that businesses there will be frivolously sued."

Illinois' lawsuit climate ranked beneath every bordering state. In a section of the report that examined local jurisdictions, The Harris Company survey also named Cook County the nation's worst city or county for legal fairness and Madison Country was named the nation's third-worst.

Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed lawsuit reform legislation that includes a proposal that will stop personal injury lawyers from shopping around for the friendliest court jurisdiction, even if the lawsuit has nothing to do with that jurisdiction. This practice, often called "venue shopping," is all too common in Illinois - The Harris Poll report ranked Illinois the worst state in the country for venue abuse and court shopping.

Akin explained, "For far too long, Illinois has been a magnet for personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs from all over the country who travel to Illinois and clog our courts with junk lawsuits that have nothing to do with Illinois, all in the hopes of striking it rich playing our state's plaintiff-friendly lawsuit lottery. These greedy personal injury lawyers have turned the 'Land of Lincoln' into the 'Land of Lawsuits,' and that is hurting job creation efforts in Illinois.

Akin continued, "It's just common sense to require lawsuits filed in Illinois to have an actual connection to Illinois, and yet in one notorious personal injury layer friendly Illinois county, 98% of the asbestos lawsuits filed there are for plaintiffs who do not live in that county. That is an absurd misuse of our courts and our tax dollars, and it victimizes all of us.

"We need to create jobs in Illinois, not more lawsuits, which is why I-LAW applauds Governor Rauner for taking the lead to weed out junk lawsuits here and restore fairness to our courts. Governor Rauner's reasonable, common sense lawsuit reforms will create jobs and unclog our courts, which will speed the legal process for those with legitimate claims."

Akin concluded, "Illinoisans should contact their legislators and ask them if they will stand with the personal injury lawyers, who are the only ones who profit from this unfair system, or the small businesses and individual citizens who are far too frequently targets of unfair frivolous lawsuits and are made to pay for personal injury lawyer greed, We need to stop the personal injury lawyers from gaming the system at our expense. By standing up to the personal injury lawyers and passing common sense lawsuit reforms, legislators will stop lawsuit abuse, create jobs, restore fairness to Illinois courts and put money back in consumers' pockets."

The "2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: A Survey of the Fairness and Reasonableness of State Liability Systems" was conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform by The Harris Poll. The final results are based on interviews with a national sample of 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million, who were asked to rank states for their overall treatment of tort, contract, and class action litigation. Among other elements, respondents also ranked states for the impartiality and competence of their judges and the fairness of their juries.

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