Group Says Lawsuits Continue To Bring Down Illinois’ Economy

From the Belleville News-Democrat

A business-backed group that keeps tabs on Illinois courts says it has conducted a new study showing litigation hurts the state’s economic growth.

The Illinois Civil Justice League’s president, John Pastuovic, said the study, called Litigation Imbalance III, “has uncovered disturbing data that shows why business has been hesitant to invest in Illinois and has taken meaningful jobs elsewhere.”

The group says a problematic volume of lawsuit filings “has deepened in Cook County, intensified in Madison and St. Clair counties, and taken root in downstate Jackson, Jefferson and Williamson counties.”

“Creating new and meaningful jobs is the solution for nearly every major issue facing Illinois today,” Pastuovic said. “Unfortunately, the data detailed in this report as well as the findings in other national studies have made small, medium and large companies justifiably gunshy 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.”


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Opinions


How The Tort Juggernaut Trolls For Clients

From Tiger Joyce, President of the American Tort Reform Association

It has been more than 15 years since former Supreme Court Justice David Souter referred to asbestos litigation as an “elephantine mass,” the most massive of mass torts in America for decades. Though the U.S. epidemiological peak for mesothelioma—the incurable cancer caused by significant inhalation of asbestos fibers—came and went in the early 1990s, roughly 2,000-3,000 new claims for compensation are filed each year.

Yet recent events have raised serious questions about personal-injury law firms’ aggressive recruitment of asbestos clients and the legitimacy of the claims they file. In 2012, a jury found two Pittsburgh-based plaintiffs’ lawyers liable for fraud in a multimillion-dollar civil racketeering case brought against them by CSX Transportation. The company had alleged that the lawyers had worked with a radiologist to falsify chest X-rays to pursue asbestos-related claims against CSX. (The lawyers appealed, but then settled without admitting wrongdoing.)

Also last year a federal judge presiding over the bankruptcy of Garlock Sealing Technologies, a manufacturer targeted with asbestos suits, found that “manipulation of exposure evidence” had been perpetrated by several plaintiffs’ firms. And former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and indicted earlier this year for allegedly using his influence in Albany to steer asbestos clients to a law firm that had paid him millions.

With such law firms collectively spending roughly $30 million annually on television advertising alone to recruit asbestos clients, according to analysis by the Silverstein Group, it’s worth asking how the mass marketing of mass torts affects the civil justice system. If there is fierce competition among firms for a finite number of legitimate clients, does the need to recoup marketing expenses create perverse incentives to pursue speculative or even illegitimate claims, for instance, blaming lifelong smokers’ lung cancers on supposed secondhand trace exposures to asbestos dust decades earlier?

Of course, defending against fraudulent claims imposes costs on the customers, employees and shareholders of targeted companies. But it’s also fair to ask whether overwhelmed court dockets put an undue burden on taxpayers, and whether future legitimate claimants will be crowded out if compensation funds are exhausted.

Asbestos isn’t the only mass tort being marketed by the plaintiffs’ bar. Law firms hoping to force gigantic settlements out of makers of surgically implanted pelvic mesh have spent an estimated $52 million last year to troll for clients, according to the Silverstein Group.

Although various physicians consider pelvic mesh to be the best available treatment for many of the millions of women who suffer what are known as pelvic floor disorders, these lawyer campaigns have generated more than 100,000 claims, making this America’s fastest-growing mass tort.

But a defense motion filed in federal multidistrict litigation in January offered extensive evidence of seemingly wholesale fraud in recruiting mesh plaintiffs. Transcripts of recruiters’ cold-calls to unsuspecting women who had not even undergone mesh implants showed brazen invitations to lie to collect “$30,000 to $40,000.” The motion also alleged unlawful invasions of many women’s medical privacy, which raises still more questions about what may be motivating hackers in recent health-care data breaches.

Another would-be mass tort is spreading like a prairie fire throughout the Midwest. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are using television, radio, websites, direct mail and meet-and-greets with corn farmers to market meritless litigation blaming a recent drop in corn prices not on supply and demand but on Syngenta, the developer of a genetically modified, pest-resistant corn seed.

Read the entire commentary at the Wall Street Journal…

News Update


I-LAW ‘Reform Rally’ Will Push Legislators To Take Up Civil Justice

From the Madison County Record

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch will host its second “Rally for Lawsuit Reform” in an effort to create awareness and inform state legislators about the need for lawsuit reform in Illinois.

The rally will be held on April 29 at the state Capitol in Springfield.

As the first governor in more than a decade to embrace lawsuit reform, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has made the environment in Springfield much more welcoming compared to last year’s event, said I-LAW Executive Director Travis Akin.

“The most important take away here is that we want to communicate to lawmakers the importance of judicial reform,” Akin said.

Akin added that it is crucial for Illinois lawmakers to hear from “real” people concerned about the state’s clogged courtrooms, and the rally provides an opportunity for citizens to be heard.

Read more in our daily News Update…