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Governor Sets His Sights on Tort Reform

Posted on in Truck Accidents

Illinois personal injury attorney, Illinois workers compensation lawyer, new lawsAs a new governor settles into office, tort reform is returning to the agenda in Springfield. Tort reform is essentially an almost never-ending tug of war between serious personal injury victims on one side, and insurance companies, who sometimes stand with their business group allies, on the other side. To continue the metaphor of an athletic contest, tort reform groups often try to throw up procedural hurdles on the legal race track, making it more difficult for victims to file suit. If the plaintiff is still able to start the race, tort reformers often try to decrease the prize.

If Gov. Rauner’s campaign and early gubernatorial acts are any indication, business and insurance groups may try to change the rules in both these areas.

Venue

Some business and insurance groups have an extreme distaste for four words in the Illinois venue statute. This is the law that determines where a victim may bring a lawsuit. Generally, a plaintiff may file suit in the county of the defendant’s residence, “or in the county in which the transaction or some part thereof occurred out of which the cause of action arose.”

This provision is particularly meaningful in a mass tort case, perhaps one that involves a dangerous medical device or a defective automobile. Theoretically, if one person in Madison or St. Claire County was injured by a hip implant or exploding airbag, a liability lawsuit could be brought in that county.

One proposal is to eliminate, or at least modify, the offending phrase. Such a move may well be the first step on a slippery slope which could lead to the shuttering of the courthouse doors for many injured victims.

Damage Limits

The second proposal is even more troubling. The last time the State Legislature tried to pass damage caps, the Illinois Supreme Court stepped in and overturned a medical malpractice reform law. It was the second time the Supreme Court struck down damage caps. Now, insurance companies are set to begin Round Three.

The Court has the same makeup as it did when it decided Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in 2012, and it seems unlikely that the justices would reverse themselves only three years later. There was talk of a Constitutional amendment that could effectively bypass the Supreme Court, but tort reformers currently do not have enough votes in the Legislature to pass such a measure.

The Bottom Line

No one likes frivolous lawsuits, which is why current laws contain harsh penalties for those who abuse the system. A judge should decide whether or not a suit is properly before the Court, and a jury should decide the amount of damages. Neither decision should be left to bureaucrats.

Injured victims should be able to obtain fair compensation from a court of law. For a free consultation with an experienced Lake County personal injury attorney, contact our office. Home and hospital visits are available.
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