Illinois Counties Remain Among Judicial Hellholes Ranks
Madison, St. Clair and Cook Counties reign supreme for asbestos, ‘no-injury’ lawsuits
Three Illinois counties comprise the fifth-worst “Judicial Hellhole®” in the country, according to a new report.
The American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF), in its 20th anniversary edition of the annual report, included Cook, Madison & St. Clair Counties.
The three Illinois counties continue to be hotbeds for asbestos litigation and “no-injury” lawsuits stemming from the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). But this year, the state’s legislature tacked on a new pre-judgement interest in civil trials while an appellate court decision extended the period of time lawsuits can be filed under BIPA, the state’s data privacy law.
“As if lawsuit abuse in Madison, St. Clair and Cook Counties wasn’t already bad enough, the legislature and the courts once again went to bat for the trial bar, making the state’s civil justice system even more imbalanced,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said.
Lawsuits under BIPA have exponentially increased after a 2019 Illinois Supreme Court decision that found a plaintiff does not need to have suffered actual harm to maintain and win a lawsuit filed under BIPA. The law allows people to seek damages if they aren’t informed or given a release when a company uses biometric data, like fingerprints or facial scans to unlock and secure electronic devices.
Now, ATRF says, thanks to a September appellate court ruling, the statute of limitations for many cases brought under BIPA will be extended from one to five years
“Illinois is already ground zero for lawsuit filings where one of the basic tenets of tort law is already ignored – claiming an actual injury,” Joyce said. “Illinois courts’ broad interpretation of BIPA has allowed these no-injury lawsuits to surge, as entrepreneurial trial lawyers seek to cash in and target businesses that use iris scans, fingerprints, or similar technology in their workplaces.”
ATRF reports that between 2008 and 2018, there were 163 BIPA class action lawsuits filed. But in 2019 alone, there were more than 300 BIPA class actions filed.
Further, polling shows that 64% of Illinois survey respondents do not believe consumers should sue local businesses over personal data and that nearly 57% believe there should be real harm proven in lawsuits related to data privacy.
“Recent studies show that in Illinois, lawsuit abuse results in an annual ‘tort tax’ of more than $1,000 paid by each resident in the state,” Joyce said. “Unfortunately, that number is likely to increase thanks to a bill passed by the state legislature this year that will ultimately only mean a larger payout for trial lawyers.”
Under the new law, Illinois will now impose a 6% prejudgment interest on damages in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that will begin accruing the day an action is filed.
“It’s small businesses and their employees who will ultimately pay the price when astronomical litigation costs force businesses to raise prices across the board, simply to keep up,” Joyce said. “Further, this law creates unnecessary financial exposure for civil defendants, and at a time when many businesses across the state already are struggling to keep their doors open.”
ATRF’s annual report further states that Madison, St. Clair and Cook Counties accounted for nearly half (46%) of all asbestos claims nationwide in 2020.
“Trial lawyers and their clients know these county courthouses are sympathetic to their causes, have low standards for evidence, and that the judges are willing to allow meritless claims to survive,” Joyce said.
Counties in Illinois have been named Judicial Hellholes® every year since the report’s inception in 2002, and this summer was named an “Everlasting Judicial Hellhole.”
The trio of Illinois counties are one of eight Judicial Hellholes® in the 2021-2022 report:
- New York
- The Georgia Supreme Court
- The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
- Cook, Madison, and St. Clair Counties, Illinois
- City of St. Louis
- South Carolina’s Asbestos Litigation
Judicial Hellholes® are deemed the most unjust local courts and state civil justice systems in the country. Read the full report at JudicialHellholes.org.