The following letter to the editor by ITLA President John P. Scanlon was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday, December 21, 2017.
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has again recycled its annual “report” to stoke prejudice and fear of our state’s legal system. ATRA, and its Illinois mouthpiece Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), are well-funded front groups for the nation’s wealthiest corporations and work to undermine the independence of our courts to help corporate interests avoid responsibility for their dangerous behavior and reckless actions.
This year’s edition of the deceptively titled “Hellholes” report is part of an ongoing campaign to deny citizens access to the court system that their tax dollars fund. ATRA and I-LAW’s allies want to change Illinois law to shield corporations and insurance companies from accountability when their irresponsible behavior results in the serious injury or even death of innocent people. To maximize its benefactors’ profits, they also would shift the responsibility of paying to care for those sickened or injured away from the companies that caused the harm and onto the backs of taxpayers.
The truth is that Illinois already has a well-functioning process for weeding out lawsuits that lack merit long before they ever reach the trial stage. In fact, the number of civil cases filed in Illinois dropped 43 percent between 2010 and 2015. More than 60 percent of the cases in our courts today involve businesses suing other businesses or individuals.
Illinois’ courts are fair and provide an avenue for people of ordinary means who are victims of wrongdoing to hold perpetrators accountable. They serve as a powerful deterrent against corporate misconduct and that’s precisely why ATRA and I-LAW are so determined to shut down the ability of individuals to access them for help.
John P. Scanlon
President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association