Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Urgent Info for Illinois Residents: One week to go

Chicago attorney and uber-evangelizer Linda Weaver has sent out a warning about bill that is pending before the Illinois Senate. This bill opens up whole new paths of lawsuits that can undermine the common good while a few rake in massive benefits. Read the details from Linda (below) and contact the legislators! (

April 3, 2007
Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Unfortunately, this is not a joke. Please take a minute to read this. I have never sent you anything to do with politics or legislation before, and I do not plan to do this again, but I sincerely believe that this affects you, your businesses, your employers, and your friends in Illinois. If after reading this, you agree, please act before April 16.

As an Illinois attorney, I only have one thing to say about Illinois Senate Bill 1296. Yikes!

If you have never contacted your legislator, now is the time to do so.

This bill affects not just businesses, but also you personally and makes each solvent individual and business a much more attractive target for litigation. The bill has already passed the Illinois Senate, so this is important.
Senate Bill (SB) 1296 significantly expands joint and several tort liability in a manner that, I believe, will hurt Illinois citizens (personally), businesses, jobs, and the Illinois economy. The Illinois tort system is already regarded as one of the most plaintiff-friendly in the country. This proposal, if enacted, would take Illinois even further out of the judicial mainstream in the country.

Perhaps you have never seen your name on the caption of a lawsuit as a defendant. Perhaps you have never stayed awake at night worrying about the outcome of a frivolous law suit filed against you or your company. NOW is the time to act if you want to (hopefully) keep it that way-- for BOTH you and for your employer or company.

SB 1296 would change current joint and several liability law to force defendants in personal injury suits to pay 100 % of the damages - even if they are only 1 % at fault. You do not want that!!!! Do you??? While this applies to businesses, it does not ONLY apply to businesses. It applies to you personally if you are an Illinois resident or subject to Illinois law.

Under current law, defendants that are 25 % or less at fault are required only to pay damages in proportion to their degree of fault. The result would be a tort system much more expensive and unpredictable than the one we have now. Wait, I take that back. It would be much more predictable. You can predict that litigation will increase, and that if you or your company has assets, you are more likely to become the target of a lawsuit.

Imagine this scenario: A drunk, uninsured and judgement-proof driver rear ends you while sitting at a stop light. You, in turn, tap the car in front of you causing it to enter the intersection where it is totally destroyed by another car going through the intersection. Somehow, the jury finds you 1% at fault. You only have $1 million in limits on your auto policy, but the car contained multiple passengers who were injured in addition to the driver who was killed. You have assets. What now? Guess who the "deep pocket" will be.
In addition, it seems to me that this rule of law would encourage collusive and scam lawsuits in a judicial system that often seems out of whack. What is to prevent a plaintiff and judgment-proof defendant, working together, from staging an accident and involving an otherwise innocent third-party in order to collect one of the jack-pot verdicts that seem so prevalent today- which judgment might be 100% collected from the third-party even if that party is only 1% negligent? How much would it cost to defend against this kind of a law suit?

If SB 1296 becomes law, liability costs for businesses in Illinois would increase. Many businesses and professionals frequently are included in litigation for which they have only slight liability. All Illinois residents and businesses, large and small, will be vulnerable to large judgments that are unfairly disproportionate to their fault, resulting in higher business costs and higher prices for goods and services. Your municipality also could be affected because many lawsuits routinely include them in claims; a large judgment could exhaust any insurance and lead to an increase in your city taxes. Insurance rates will inevitably go up.

I strongly encourage you to take action against this legislation. Contact your state representative to urge him or her to VOTE NO on SB 1296. The Illinois legislature is currently on spring break. They will reconvene the week of April 16 at which time we expect swift action on SB 1296. The time to act is now while your legislators are at home in their district offices. It is easy, painless and free, something I cannot say about litigation....Click on the link above or if it does not work for some reason, copy and paste it into your URL. It takes about two minutes.

I hope you will agree that SB 1296 is inherently unfair, ill-conceived, and short-sighted legislation that would be extremely damaging to Illinois businesses and citizens, as well as the entire Illinois economy. Please contact your state representative to request a NO vote on SB 1296.

I highly recommend you pay attention now and help defeat this bill. If you own a company, ask your employees to take time to contact their legislators. Send this to your friends, family and clients in Illinois. Do them a favor. (Hey, this could be one of the few chain e-mails that could actually make a difference if you forward it...)

In any event, you don't have to take my word for it. Research it yourself and at least make an informed decision. You can start here. There is a link to the bill at the end of the article.

Everyone is potentially affected, even those without assets as businesses are forced to make cut backs or choose not to do business in Illinois. Only a very few stand to benefit from this proposed change. At some point, we just have to say "No." Now would be a very good time.

Thanks for reading. No need to respond to me. Do what you believe is best.

Linda A. Weaver

Link to bill

1 comment:

joe said...

Illinois always had joint and several liability until the law was changed due to pressure from insurance companies. Rates were supposed to go down after the change. Naturally, they didn't. The scare tactics are just that, they will not suddenly cause innocent motorists to go bankrupt.