Cook County Lawsuits Fail to Claim Actual Injuries
In No. 5 worst ‘Judicial Hellhole,’ Chicago residents pay $2,094 each in annual tort tax
Cook County, Illinois was named the fifth-worst “Judicial Hellhole®” in the nation today, according to a new report from the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF).
“Cook County is ground zero for lawsuit filings where the person suing doesn’t actually claim they suffered any injury, called no-injury lawsuits,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said. “The county has also become a hot spot for high-dollar, nuclear verdicts.”
While Madison and St. Clair Counties were previously included, ATRF determined that their issues are more narrowly focused on asbestos litigation, which earned the counties a Judicial Hellholes® Dishonorable Mention.
However, asbestos litigation remains an issue in Cook County as the county is one of the Top 10 jurisdictions in the country for asbestos filings.
When it comes to no-injury lawsuits, the state’s data privacy law, the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), reigns supreme. The law allows people to sue if they aren’t informed or given a release when a company uses their biometric data, like fingerprints or facial scans that we use to unlock and secure our phones and computers.
“Entrepreneurial trial lawyers saw an opening for business and immediately sought to cash in by targeting businesses that use this technology,” Joyce said. “They’ll often find a business didn’t follow a small, technical portion of the law, then use that as a basis for a class action lawsuit, even though their clients didn’t suffer any harm or injury.”
ATRF says the large monetary penalties associated with BIPA are part of why lawsuit filings under BIPA have surged in the past few years. Many are filed in Cook County, with trial lawyers bringing class actions to maximize their profits.
This year, the first ever BIPA case went to trial and ended with a federal jury delivering a $228 million verdict. The class action lawsuit was originally filed in Cook County, but the defendant, a national railroad company, removed the case to the Northern District of Illinois.
“Eye-popping verdicts like this make clear that the climate for lawsuit abuse in Illinois is already bad,” Joyce said. “A massive verdict like this, when the plaintiffs didn’t claim any actual injury, is alarming to say the least.”
A recent poll showed that more than half of Illinois respondents do not believe consumers should sue local businesses over personal data and that there should be real harm proven in lawsuits related to data privacy.
In spite of public beliefs, no-injury lawsuits targeting the food and beverage industry increased by 450% last year in Illinois. Most of these cases are filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Cook County.
“Unfortunately, trial lawyers are the only ones that stand to gain from these lawsuits,” Joyce said. “Companies privately settle most of these claims to avoid the expense of litigation, in which case, consumers get nothing. When a class settlement is reached, which is rare, consumers typically get pennies to the dollar only to see an increase in the overall cost of goods.”
With inflation at an all-time high, Chicago residents pay an annual “tort tax” of $2,094 per person and 178,000 jobs are lost each year due to excessive tort costs.
The report also says trial lawyers specifically targeted the Chicago media market (including Cook County) at a high rate, spending $16.1 million on more than 100,600 ads from January through August this year.
The 21st edition of the annual report published by ATRF names eight Judicial Hellholes® in total:
- The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
- New York
- Cook County, Illinois
- South Carolina Asbestos Litigation
- St. Louis
Notably, jurisdictions in Illinois have been named Judicial Hellholes® in all 21 reports, which names the most unjust local courts and state civil justice systems in the country each year.
The full report is available at JudicialHellholes.org.