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Press Release - September 1, 2015

I-LAW and Madison County Board Members call on local legislators to support meaningful lawsuit reforms to shed region's reputation as a 'lawsuit magnet'

(Marion) - Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), a grassroots, non-partisan legal watchdog group, today joined local Madison County officials Tom McRae and Mick Madison in calling on local lawmakers to support much-needed lawsuit reforms to finally shed Madison and St. Clair's County's reputation as the "Lawsuit Capital of the Midwest."

"The people of Madison and St. Clair Counties are tired of seeing jobs and opportunities leave Illinois," said Travis Akin, executive director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch. "They understand that if we are going to bring more jobs to Illinois, we need to put an end to abusive lawsuits. Working together, we can and will secure the reforms we need to make the Metro East a destination for jobs, not abusive lawsuits. The Metro-East needs the lawsuit reforms Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed."

One of the common-sense lawsuit reforms Governor Rauner has proposed would stop personal injury lawyers from filing frivolous lawsuits that have nothing to do with Illinois, just because they know Illinois courts are notoriously plaintiff friendly. This practice, often called "venue shopping," is all too common in Illinois, explained Travis Akin, executive Director of I-LAW.

"For far too long, the Metro East has been a magnet for personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs from all over the country who travel to Madison and St. Clair Counties 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," Akin explained. "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 Madison County, 98% of the asbestos lawsuits filed there are for plaintiffs who do not live in that county, which is an absurd misuse of our courts and our tax dollars."

Madison and St. Clair Counties have long been fixtures on the annual "Judicial Hellholes" report. Currently, Madison County is ranked the nation's fifth-worst "Judicial Hellhole." Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch and the Illinois Civil Justice League recently teamed up to release the study Litigation Imbalance III, which highlights the disparity of case filings and verdict totals in Cook, Madison, St. Clair and three other downstate counties compared to the state's other 96 counties. According to the report, case filings in Madison County average 8.255 per thousand persons, which is double the rate of Cook County; triple the rate of St. Clair County; and six and a half times the rate of the other 99 counties in Illinois combined.

The Metro East region lost 1,800 jobs in the last year, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

"Businesses can adjust to regulations," said Mick Madison, a small business owner. "They can adjust to higher taxes but lawsuits are the great unknown because the cost of a lawsuit could be fairly manageable or it could be large enough to put a small business out of business. I know firsthand as a business owner myself - the threat of a lawsuit is ever present here in Madison County. Instead of Madison County being a favorite destination for lawsuit tourists; let's make Madison County a destination for jobs."

According to the Madison County Auditor's Comprehensive Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2014, Madison County spent about $1.2 million on litigation claims which is on par for how much the county spends every year on litigation.

"We are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on lawsuits," said Tom McRae, a District 14 Madison County Board member. "Millions of dollars are being sucked out of already-squeezed budgets, leading to fewer teachers, unrepaired roads, fewer police officers and higher taxes for area residents. I sit in board meeting after board meeting at the County Board and we are always having to approve money for one lawsuit after another. That is unacceptable. We need Governor Bruce Rauner's lawsuit reforms and we need it now."

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