The following letter to the editor by ITLA President Larry R. Rogers, Jr. was published in the Chicago Tribune on Saturday, February 20, 2021.
The fear-mongering assertions contained in a Feb. 17 editorial merely echo the cries of corporate front groups that spend millions every year promoting rigged polls and phony studies to make false assertions about so-called “lawsuit abuse” and “judicial hellholes.”
House Bill 3360 eliminates the unfair financial benefits businesses reap from prioritizing profits over people and their pain. The measure incentivizes corporations and insurers to promptly and timely resolve meritorious claims instead of dragging cases out for years, a practice that disproportionately harms lower-income and minority plaintiffs who are cannot withstand the loss of income from being unable to return to work.
Under current law, defendants unjustly benefit from legal stalling tactics in two ways. First, they are allowed to invest and earn interest on money that otherwise would have been paid to the person they hurt. Second, the longer they can keep a case from settlement or trial, the more likely it is the injured person’s financial condition will deteriorate to the point of desperation, forcing them to settle for a fraction of what they might otherwise have received.
Opponents to HB3360 fail to mention a number of important facts. To start, forty-six other states have some form of prejudgment interest. Next, the legislation entitles a plaintiff to collect prejudgment interest if their case goes to trial and a judge or jury finds in their favor. Because 97% of all cases settle, the practical reality is that prejudgment interest will be calculated only on a fraction of cases in which the plaintiff prevails. Finally, prejudgment interest will not be imposed on claims against municipalities or on settlements.
As to the nine percent annual prejudgment interest rate established by HB3360, that figure has long been recognized in Illinois as a fair rate and for decades has been the rate used to calculate post-judgment interest in injury claims. It strikes the appropriate balance necessary to motivate defendants who know the case against them is likely to be successful to reach a resolution as quickly as possible by avoiding a rate so low it can more easily be ignored.
Gov. Pritzker should ignore the cries of corporations and insurance companies, and those that merely repeat them. He can strike another blow for fairness and equality in the Illinois legal system by signing the measure into law.
Larry R. Rogers, Jr.
President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association