Disingenuous ‘Poll’ Is the Latest Barrage of Misinformation Aimed at Undermining Citizens’ Ability to Seek Justice and Advocate Effectively for Their Own Economic Security
Statement by John P. Scanlon
President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
September 12, 2017
The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, a front group for the nation’s wealthiest special interests, released a new version of a tired old report that supposedly ranks the best and worst state legal systems in America.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce specializes in sowing confusion and demonizing our civil justice system on behalf of its generous benefactors who hope to maximize profits and shift the responsibility of caring for those sickened or injured by their reckless conduct onto taxpayers.
The survey relies on the opinions of corporate lawyers from multi-million-dollar corporations who spend their days trying to ensure that consumers or employees can’t hold these corporations accountable for wrongdoing and gross negligence. The results supposedly reflect public opinion, but only attorneys from large corporations – not everyday citizens – were surveyed.
Year after year the Chamber’s report is found to have numerous errors, misstatements and outright lies. The methodology has been debunked. In fact, the Chamber’s own pollster admitted that there is no way to measure a state’s legal system. The same pollster confessed that only a fraction of corporate defense attorneys know anything about their state courts.
The results of the Chamber’s so-called survey are far removed from the actual facts of the Illinois judicial system but are exactly what the Chamber bought and paid for to reinforce its effort to sow confusion and demonize our courts. The Institute for Legal Reform has long fronted for insurers and a “who’s who” of pharmaceutical, oil and tobacco companies, among others, and it is dedicated to minimizing the chance those entities might ever be made accountable for actions that harm or kill innocent people.
Businesses File Most Lawsuits; Civil Lawsuit Filings Are Actually Down
The reality is that very few injured Americans file lawsuits. The number of civil cases filed in Illinois has dropped 43 percent between 2010 and 2015. More than 60 percent of the cases in our courts today are filed by businesses – the very ones seeking to take away our constitutionally protected rights – suing other business or individuals for money.
As for medical malpractice cases, the number brought in our state has steadily declined over the past decade; it’s fallen 32 percent since 2003.
The Myth that Illinois’ Legal Climate is an Impediment to Business
For the fourth year in a row, Site Selection magazine this spring named Chicago the top metro area in the country. In the same study, Illinois ranked third nationwide in the number of capital investment projects in 2016. Big business is thriving in Illinois and corporate profits are at record highs, even though many workers are not receiving their fair share of the growth they help create.
The fact is there is no correlation between our state’s civil justice system and the economy. Just look to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business – lawsuits ranked 68th on a list of the 75 chief concerns of small businesses.
Ask working families if their incomes mirror these astronomical increases in corporate profits on any percentage basis or other reasonable comparison. Trying to eliminate ordinary families’ rights and protections in the midst of these enormous profits is truly shameless.
Illinois’ Civil Justice System Works
Illinois courts provide a level playing field for individuals to force wrongdoers to make amends – even the wealthiest people and companies that, in other spheres of our government, exert vastly disproportionate influence over decision-making.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s donors don’t truly fear so-called frivolous lawsuits because they know our justice system filters out cases without merit. What they fear are meritorious lawsuits – actions brought by citizens against those putting others’ children or loved ones at risk of injury or death.
Trial lawyers fight to ensure all citizens get equal footing in the courtroom, even when taking on the most powerful interests. We see to it that those who harm consumers, other individuals, or even their own employees, are held accountable. The efforts of our clients to face down corporations, insurance companies, health care providers, and other entities – and speak in the only terms they understand, which are financial – play an important role in promoting and incentivizing product, consumer and worker safety.
This survey nothing more than a PR stunt and should be recognized for what it is: a deplorable call to strip middle and lower-income Illinoisans of their constitutional right to access the courts their tax dollars fund.