Rep. Wheeler Joins I-LAW in Urging Support for Common Sense Lawsuit Reforms

“Rally for Lawsuit Reform” brings together grassroots activists and small business owners to deliver the message that lawsuit reforms will create jobs and limit lawsuit abuse in Illinois



SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) today joined small business owners and concerned citizens at the Capitol to talk about the need for common sense lawsuit reforms that will reduce the abuse of Illinois courts by aggressive personal injury lawyers and in turn help create jobs in Illinois.

“The impact of lawsuits on small businesses cannot be understated,” Wheeler said. “Small businesses can adjust to business regulations and higher taxes but lawsuits are the great unknown. One lawsuit can bankrupt a business. It is time we took a stand to protect small business owners by passing meaningful lawsuit reforms into law.”

The press conference today was part of the “Rally for Lawsuit Reform” hosted by Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), a grassroots, non-partisan legal watchdog group. Participants kicked off the day with a meeting with Governor Bruce Rauner to tell him personally why they support his proposed lawsuit reforms and to encourage him to keep fighting for these reforms in the face of intense opposition from the personal injury lawyers’ lobby.

Illinois is ranked the third-worst state in the country for legal fairness, according to a report last fall from the non-partisan research company Harris Poll. Governor Rauner has proposed lawsuit reforms that will stop personal injury lawyers from shopping around for the friendliest court jurisdiction, even if the lawsuit has nothing to do with that jurisdiction.

This practice, often called “venue shopping,” is all too common in Illinois, explained I-LAW Executive Director Travis Akin. “For far too long, Illinois has been a magnet for personal injury lawyers and plaintiffs from all over the country who travel to Illinois 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. Governor Rauner’s call for reasonable lawsuit reform is a significant step forward in bringing Illinois’ economy back and stopping the flow of jobs to neighboring states.”

Akin spoke at a press conference in the Capitol Blue Room following the rally. He was joined by other lawsuit reform supporters and members of the General Assembly. John Pastuovic, President of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL), pointed to a study by ICJL, titled “Litigation Imbalance,” that shows how Madison County, Illinois, is continuing to be unfairly targeted by personal injury lawyers looking to cash in playing the lawsuit lottery.

The study shows lawsuit 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. Additionally, Madison County handles over one-third all asbestos-related cases filed in the entire United States each year, and last year, less than one half of 1 percent of the asbestos lawsuits in Madison County were filed on behalf of Madison County residents.

“Creating new and meaningful jobs is the solution for nearly every other major issue facing Illinois today,” explained Pastuovic. “Unfortunately, the data detailed in our study, as well as the findings in other national studies, have made small, medium and large companies justifiably gun shy about our state. Businesses cannot and will not reinvest in Illinois until these established, deep-rooted and documented problems are addressed once and for all.”   

Sherman Joyce, President of the American Tort Reform Association, said other states have used common sense lawsuit reforms as a way to attract jobs to their states. “The record is clear: common sense lawsuit reforms create jobs. Illinois has an unfortunate national reputation as a state that creates lawsuits, and that is clearly driving away employers and keeping new ones from moving to Illinois.”

“We need to create jobs in Illinois, not more lawsuits, which is why I applaud Governor Rauner for taking the lead to weed out junk lawsuits here and restore fairness to our courts. I urge my colleagues to come together to pass these reasonable, common sense lawsuit reforms that will create jobs and unclog our courts, which will speed the legal process for those with legitimate claims.”

For more information about Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, visit us on the web at www.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org and find links to I-LAW’s Twitter and Facebook pages there.           

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Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) is a grassroots watchdog group of concerned citizens, community leaders and small business people dedicated to educating the public about the widespread costs of lawsuit abuse. I-LAW has more than 20,000 supporters throughout Illinois. Anyone interested in becoming a supporter of I-LAW or learning more about stopping lawsuit abuse in Illinois can visit www.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org