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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Protect Illinois manufacturers, business owners against lawsuit abuse

Their View

By Nicole Wolter | Feb 14, 2020

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As any business owner will tell you, our profession comes with many challenges. In Illinois, however, owning a business comes with an extra challenge that threatens everything we’ve built: the constant threat of lawsuits.

Illinois businesses are hit over and over again with relentless, meritless lawsuits that put a strain on everyone involved, hinder businesses, and slow our economy. In fact, these frivolous lawsuits have gotten so out of hand in our great state that it’s landed us the No. 7 spot on the American Tort Reform Association’s (ATRA) 2019 Judicial Hellholes Report. It’s time for state lawmakers to address our deteriorating judicial climate and protect Illinois business owners.

Some of the most common sources for lawsuits against businesses are workers’ compensation cases. These are also some of the trickiest. As business owners, we prioritize the safety of our workplaces above all else. The last thing anyone wants is for our hard-working employees to get injured on the job and lose the income they and their families depend on. However, it’s important to remember that no matter how many safety measures are put into place, accidents can and will happen, but this does not mean that each accident should be turned into a lawsuit with intentions to close down a business.

Nicole Wolter |

Instead of a long, drawn-out lawsuit in court, workers’ compensation claims should be settled in mediated arbitration where they belong. There, both sides can work cooperatively for a fairer, more efficient process that is ultimately better for everyone. Involving lawyers makes the process far more complicated, and it’s almost never necessary.

Despite this, workers’ compensation claims are hardly ever settled in arbitration where they belong and instead head to court where they waste time, clog our courtrooms, and threaten to put hard-working employers out of business. These claims are expensive, and when taken to court the cost can skyrocket far past the price that both sides would consider fair. When business owners are hit with these lawsuits, it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. This makes it harder for business owners to hire new employees and contribute to the community and economy.

Similarly, and equally as harmful to Illinois business owners, are product liability lawsuits. These lawsuits are one of the most abused forms of litigation in our state. The loopholes in the law allow manufacturers and business owners to be sued even if they are not at fault.

Just as in workers’ compensation lawsuits, manufacturers and business owners can do everything in their power to prevent accidents from happening and can still be sued. Under the product liability law, you are responsible for the accident, no matter how unforeseeable or unpreventable it is. This is simply unfair.

Again, these frivolous lawsuits hurt our business owners and manufacturers, which in turn hurts our community and our economy. It’s time for our state lawmakers to address the state of the “judicial hellhole” they’ve allowed Illinois to become.

Rather than continuing to allow frivolous lawsuits to clog up our courtrooms, let’s reform product liability and workers’ compensation laws to ensure fairness in our judicial system.

Nicole Wolter is the President and CEO of HM Manufacturing in Wauconda and a member of the board of directors of both the Technology & Manufacturing Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. This column is republished with permission from The Center Square.

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Organizations in this Story

State of IllinoisIllinois Chamber of CommerceAmerican Tort Reform Association

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