The side that begins making the most outrageous arguments and using inflammatory language in any public debate is usually the one whose position is rooted on shakier ground. Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm knows that the principle is certainly true when it comes to the tort reform debate. If one listens close enough, virtually every problem facing the country can be traced back to things like birth injury lawsuits and other situations where a wronged party tries to use the civil justice system to seek redress and accountability against their wrongdoer.
The exaggeration is perhaps most evident locally in the so-called “Judicial Hellhole” report recycled each year in order to stir up controversy and make ridiculous claims about the long-term effect of fair access to the civil just system in our state. As the Jerry Latherow, the president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, noted in a recent editorial published by the State Journal-Register, this latest report is best thought of as a mere publicity stunt.
For one thing the report makes extreme claims about the harms that have befallen our state because our citizens can use the court system to seek redress for their losses. On one level the claims are outrageous from the outset, because the truth is that there are many more cases of businesses suing other businesses than there are of individuals suing businesses. Illinois injury victims do use the justice system to hold negligent parties responsible for their conduct, but businesses use it much more frequently as part of their efforts to bring down competitors. Any discussion of the role of the justice system that does not address this undeniable fact is suspect from the beginning.
On top of that, the actual claims made about the effects of access to justice are supremely misguided. For example, the report claims that our state is losing jobs because of the civil justice system. Considering that we are still recovering from a Great Recession and many are still struggling to find work, this argument is sure to make headlines. However, is it based on fact? Definitely not. A recent survey of actual business owners from the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that taxes, energy costs, and availability of labor were the prime motivators for deciding where to set up shop, expand a business, and ultimately create jobs. Fear of lawsuits did not even make the list.
The results of the business survey are not surprising to our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers, because we work in this area and known first-hand that the claims made by tort reformers simply do not mesh with reality. There are already many safeguards in place to screen out the very few frivolous lawsuits that are filed. Pleadings standards, the cost of actually taking on a case, and many other factors simply make it ineffective to file suits unless there are very real questions about the harm caused to an individual because of negligence. The only reason that tort reforms try to make the claim otherwise is because doing so makes it seem as if there is a need for laws which take away access to the court system.
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