I-LAW Wants to Frighten Illinoisans Into Giving Up Their Right to Hold Wrongdoers Accountable
Statement by John P. Scanlon, President
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
July 13, 2017
Long before the term “fake news” was being used, the Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) was hawking disinformation to confuse public understanding and promote rage toward our judicial system. Today, I-LAW and its big business backers have chosen East St. Louis, one of the poorest communities in Illinois, as the place to hold a celebration of new Missouri laws that, if enacted in our state, would stack the economic deck further against lower and middle-income families and shift the burden of caring for those harmed by corporate malfeasance away from those who caused the injuries and onto the backs of taxpayers.
The truth is that Illinois already has a rigorous and 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. The number of medical malpractice cases has decreased 32 percent since 2003. More than 60 percent of the cases in our courts today involve businesses suing other business or individuals.
In Madison County – a favorite target for I-LAW – the number of asbestos cases filed is down 27 percent since 2013. On average, only one case per year has gone to trial during the past decade and most cases end up settling before getting to a jury. However, I-LAW won’t be satisfied until all individuals suffering due to exposure to that toxic substance completely forego their right to hold responsible those who put them in harm’s way.
Part of the explanation for the fall in lawsuits is that having robust laws to hold wrongdoers accountable, as we do in Illinois, creates strong financial incentives for companies and health care providers to take steps to prevent injuries and make workplaces safer.
The whole rationale for I-LAW’s event today is further undercut by a recent study done by the National Federation of Independent Business, which ranked lawsuits 68th on a list of the 75 chief concerns of small businesses.
I-LAW’s PR stunt should be recognized for what it is: a deplorable call to strip lower and middle-income Illinoisans of their constitutional right to access the courts their tax dollars fund, simply for the sake of higher corporate profits. Illinois’ legal system provides a level playing field for individuals to force wrongdoers to make amends. Next time, Akin should hold his event on the St. Louis riverfront and look east to Illinois for inspiration.