A Publication of WTVP

Forty-sixth…and falling? That’s the question on the minds of employers across the country as they consider whether or not to bring new jobs and business investment to Illinois.

After all, Illinois ranked 46th out of 50 states in the most recent U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform/Harris State Liability System Rankings, having fallen 12 spots in three years. That survey is the preeminent standard by which companies, policymakers, and the media judge the legal fairness of states.

Survey respondents ranked three Illinois counties—Cook, Madison, and St. Clair—among the 15 worst local jurisdictions in the country for legal fairness. In addition, an overwhelming 81 percent of respondents in the poll report the litigation environment in a state could affect important business decisions, such as where to locate or do business. That statistic doesn’t bode well for Illinois, a state that’s lost almost 200,000 manufacturing jobs in the last five years.

The state legislature took a positive step forward in the spring by passing medical liability reform. Those reforms should help keep Illinois doctors in business—and protect Illinois families’ access to quality, affordable health care. Thankfully, the voters of Illinois put enough pressure on Gov. Blagojevich to force him to do the right thing and sign the bill, but he and the legislature have much more to do to help make Illinois competitive and open for business.

Medical liability reform is only one piece of Illinois’ lawsuit puzzle. Illinois’ legal system remains one of the most unbalanced and unfair in the country, and that reputation contributes to the ongoing jobs crisis that’s plagued the state. Illinois remains a haven for out-of-state plaintiffs’ lawyers shopping for friendly jurisdictions in which to bring their cases. The state also has a reputation for unfair jury awards and out-of-step class action rules.

What types of additional reforms does Illinois need to balance the scales of justice? We need not look any further than the collection of common sense legal reform bills bottled up by legal reform opponents in this past legislative session: legislation to reform the state’s outdated venue rules, comprehensive class action reforms, a jury service reform bill, and legislation to place reasonable limits on non-economic damage awards.

Unfortunately, the powerful political grip of the plaintiffs’ bar prevented these vital reforms from seeing the light of day. Trial lawyers are fighting vigorously to obstruct legislation that would end lawsuit abuse because it’s that abuse that’s allowing them to strike it rich at the expense of Illinois employers and consumers.

Legal reform isn’t an abstract notion. It’s about families. It’s about jobs. It’s about access to quality health care. It’s about balancing the scales of justice so they no longer tip heavily in favor of a select group of wealthy plaintiffs’ attorneys who are abusing Illinois’ legal system for personal benefit and at the expense of our families and our jobs.

Employers are afraid to bring jobs to states with abusive legal climates, and litigation forces the average Illinois family of four to pay an extra $3,300 a year in higher prices, higher insurance rates, and skyrocketing health care costs.

Opponents of legal reform reluctantly passed—and the governor reluctantly signed—medical liability reform because Illinois voters rose up in protest of a legal system causing doctors to flee the state, leaving families without access to quality health care. Now is the time for Illinois voters to rise up once again and demand their legislators take similar action to pass meaningful, common sense, comprehensive legal reforms.

Stay tuned. The victory on medical liability reform is just the beginning. The business community will remain aggressively engaged in our efforts to educate the public about the devastating effects of lawsuit abuse on Illinois’ jobs climate. We’ll continue our fight to restore fairness and balance to Illinois’ courts and to make sure the state’s civil justice system is simpler, fairer, and faster for everyone. We won’t rest until Illinois is, once again, open for business. IBI