All discussions in recent years about the civil justice system are intensely focused on legislative proposals that are often referred to as “tort reform.” For some community members, reading about these proposals is the only connection they have with the civil justice system. As a result, our know that many of these residents may have a skewed view of what it means for private citizens to file suit seeking redress for the harms suffered as a result of the misconduct of others.
That is why we applaud a recent article published in the State-Journal Register by the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association Jerry Latherow. The story is a helpful reminder about the underlying purpose of the civil justice system, ensuring that everyone is treated fairly, from the most vulnerable citizen—like newborn babies—to the most powerful businesses and corporations. This power differential is perhaps at their height in Illinois birth injury cases, when our youngest children seek recovery for their losses against large healthcare industry companies. The fact that these children can recover for their losses and receive redress for the care they will need throughout their lives is a testament to the merits of the civil justice system.
Of course, this basic idea—holding everyone accountable for the harm that they unnecessarily cause of others—applies in many different situations. From big oil companies and the insurance industry to the financial titans and prescription drug companies, private industries often make decisions based entirely on profit-maximization, even when innocent consumers are hurt in the process.
When trying to take away the rights of individual victims hurt by their conduct, our Illinois birth injury lawyers knows that these industries often claim that there are enough safeguards in place because of state and federal regulations. However, this argument fails in two ways. First, it is clear that regulators woefully lack the resources to ensure proper standards and actual laws are upheld all the time. Second, even in the few instances where there is proper public oversight, that oversight does nothing to help the individual citizens often severely hurt as a result of the misconduct.
The civil justice system fills in those gaps. By allowing regular consumers to hold even the biggest companies accountable for their misconduct, our entire community is made safer. That is exactly why our founding fathers enshrined the system into our governing documents. As Latherow writes, “Without it [the civil justice system], these powerful corporations would have free reign to make and break the rules.”
All those who care about this basic system of fairness and accountability need to stand strong against those working to undermine the system. Regardless of what claims are made by those seeking tort reform, the civil justice system is filled with very few claims without merit. The truth is that most lawsuits are actually businesses suing other businesses. There is absolutely no epidemic of private citizens suing corporations. Those suits are relatively few, but they are crucial checks on the power of those who sometimes assume that they cannot be held accountable for the harm they unreasonable cause others.
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