I-LAW: Lawsuit reform needed in Chicago

Travis Akin Feb. 24, 2015, 9:56am

The race for mayor in Chicago is heating up, and at the center of the debate is the City’s dire financial situation. The Chicago Public Schools alone are staring at a $1.14 billion budget deficit.

There certainly is no easy solution to the City’s budget woes, but right now the Emanuel administration is making things worse by spending money on a wasteful lawsuit against five pharmaceutical manufacturers, accusing those companies of deceptively marketing opioid painkillers by misrepresenting their benefits and concealing their health risks. The claim alleges that the City’s health care costs have increased as a result of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.

The Emanuel administration has filed the lawsuit despite the fact that the FDA is already addressing the issues at the heart of the lawsuit. This is an unnecessary and deeply-flawed lawsuit that is ultimately going to cost Chicago taxpayers money. Holding prescription drug makers responsible for the misuse of their products is the moral equivalent of holding beer companies responsible for people who drink too much. It is absurd.

People need to exercise personal responsibility and make sure they are using prescription medication in the way it is intended to be used.

Lawsuits such as the City’s opioid lawsuit can certainly grab headlines but the outcome of cases like this are uncertain. Cases such as this can take years to be resolved and in all likelihood, the City will have nothing to show for it but a pile of legal bills.

A City that is looking at a $1 billion plus budget hole in education can ill afford to be racking up unnecessary legal costs. Instead of filing frivolous lawsuits, the City of Chicago should take the lead to reduce litigation costs and focus on reforms that will attract more jobs and opportunities. The long-term solution to the City’s budget woes is more job opportunities.

Last year, the City of Chicago spent $102 million to settle lawsuits against police officers and other City employees. The money spent on lawsuit settlements last year was three times the budgeted amount.

In order to pay these settlement costs, the City is borrowing money because there is no other way to get these bills paid. Borrowing money to pay for lawsuit settlements does not exactly instill confidence that the City’s finances are headed in the right direction.

As the various candidates running for mayor make their case to the public for why they should be elected to the City’s top spot, voters should ask these candidates where they stand on lawsuit reform and where they stand on the City’s outrageous lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies because what Chicago needs is jobs and real economic opportunities to overcome the current budget woes – not more lawsuits.

Travis Akin is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW).

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