The Illinois Civil Justice League believes an advertising campaign the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association recently launched is an attempt to push back against talk of tort reform in the state capitol.
In a news release issued Thursday, the ICJL said the campaign– which includes a paid ad on Capitol Fax blog, as well as social media and other outreach efforts– aims to “protect open access to Illinois courts.”
Ed Murnane, ICJL president, said the campaign is in response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s recent election win over former Gov. Pat Quinn. Rauner is the first Republican governor in more than a decade.
A report released last month from Rauner’s transition team mentioned tort reform in the context of creating a pro-growth jobs environment. Among other initiatives and efforts, the report urges Rauner’s administration to “publicize the importance of tort reform and the effect of the legal system on the job market” within the first 100 days of taking over.
“ITLA’s latest propaganda effort is clearly a sign that they are worried that Governor Rauner is serious about restoring fairness to the civil justice system in Illinois,” Murnane said.
He explained that when Quinn was in office, he “made no secret” of his alliance with the trial lawyers.
“It made no difference to Governor Quinn that Illinois ranked near the bottom of the 50 states in the fairness of the states’ legal system,” Murnane said.
He said he believes Rauner is trying to restore fairness to the Illinois court system in an effort to improve the state’s economy.
“Just as Illinois’ population has been declining, our business environment continues to deteriorate and restoring a fair legal system is one step – a major step – in turning Illinois around,” Murnane said.
According to ICJL’s press release, ITLA’s ad “says nothing about keeping Illinois courts for Illinois taxpayers who pay for the court system and does not refer to the deluge of out-of-state asbestos lawsuit filed in Madison County, mostly by plaintiffs’ attorneys who belong to ITLA.”
In a letter to the editor published last month, ITLA President John D. Cooney wrote that "big-money special interests try to dismiss seriously injured individuals who seek justice in court as greedy and to blame for the often grievous harms they have suffered."
He adds, "the fact is that very few Americans ever file lawsuits. In Illinois, more than 70 percent of court actions are initiated by businesses suing other businesses or individuals for money. Since 2007, the number of all civil cases in Illinois courts is down 26 percent."
Cooney ends his letter by saying, "The next time you hear cries of 'tort reform' from the usual suspects, remember it’s profits, not principles that lie behind them."
The recent ad at the crux of the ICJL's criticism tells the story of a woman whose breast was erroneously removed following a laboratory mistake. While it does not suggest the patient did not get fair compensation, it does say “powerful corporate interests” seek to prohibit the award of fair compensation.
The text of the ITLA ad reads:
Why We Need A Strong Civil Justice System – Molly’s Story: Doctors Unnecessarily Removed Her Breast.
My name is Molly Akers. When a lab switched my biopsy slide with another woman’s, I was misdiagnosed with breast cancer and a doctor needlessly removed my breast.
Real people suffer when such errors occur. I needed several surgeries to fix the preventable mistake and spent countless hours in physical therapy. My young children were terrified to see me in pain while their father washed my hair or helped me out of bed.
Due to no fault of my own I had an unnecessary mastectomy. If powerful corporate interests had their way, my ability to pursue fair compensation for my injuries would have been severely impaired. At best I might have received a token payment.
Our civil justice system protects our constitutional rights, so we can hold wrongdoers responsible. Our courts, funded with our tax dollars, provide accountability and effect changes that reduce the likelihood of serious mistakes reoccurring.
Something terrible happened to me, but it could have been you or someone you love. Please protect open access to Illinois courts.
The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association fights to ensure all citizens get equal footing in the courtroom.