A legal watchdog group stopped in Chicago today as part of a statewide tour to promote its annual “Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week.”
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW) launched its tour Monday in Herrin, held events in Madison and St. Clair counties on Tuesday and today, set up shop outside the Daley Center, home to the Cook County Circuit Court.
Travis Akin, the group’s executive director, said in a news release that he passed out legal consumer guides and encouraged people to serve on juries while a truck with a billboard message reading “Stopping Lawsuit Abuse Starts With You” circled the Daley Plaza.
He said I-LAW chose to stop by the Daley Center because a 2012 Harris Interactive report ranked Cook County courts as the worst in the nation for legal fairness.
“Cook County is widely viewed as the “Lawsuit Abuse Capital of America’ and a ‘personal injury lawyer’s playground,’” Akin said in the release. “Chicago is plagued by an epidemic of lawsuit abuse that hinders job growth and clogs our courts.”
He added that personal injury lawyers “flock to Illinois to file their frivolous lawsuits in our state’s notoriously plaintiff-friendly courts, and as a result, Illinois business owners constantly are thinking about leaving Illinois.”
Stephen D. Phillips, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers’ Association (ILTA), however, took issue with some of claims that Akin and I-LAW have made about how “lawsuit abuse” is responsible for the state’s business climate.
Akin wrote a commentary, which was published Sept. 30 in The State-Journal Register, about how “one of the greatest challenges facing small businesses is the threat of litigation.”
Phillips responded in his own commentary, which was published earlier this month in the same paper, by saying Akin “fails to mention the fact that more than 70 percent of lawsuits are filed by his very own financial supporters – businesses suing businesses for money.”
He added that “lawsuit abuse is a myth propagated by those who self-interestedly put profits before people" and that I-LAW tries to tie together “two totally unrelated subjects … with bogus studies and unreliable statistics."
Besides the statewide tour that began on Monday, I-LAW’s week-long awareness campaign includes a 60-second radio spot that will air on stations throughout the state.
The radio spot, according to Akin’s release, notes that “Whenever we avoid jury service or joke about filing a lawsuit over some silly thing, it sends the message that frivolous lawsuits are acceptable.”
Referring to this year's theme of I-LAW’s campaign –“Stopping Lawsuit Abuse Starts With You,” Akin said that “If each citizen would take personal responsibility for his or her own actions, it would go a long way to curbing lawsuit abuse.”
He added, “It starts with each one of us working to solve our problems instead of filing lawsuits and taking the time to serve on juries instead of looking for a way out when that jury summons comes in the mail.”