Illinois Trial Lawyer Advertising

ATRA’s latest report shows that spending on local TV trial lawyer advertising increased nearly 70% over the past five years in Illinois – those ads urging viewers to “Call now to get what you deserve!”

From January through March 2021 alone, it is estimated that more than $232 million was spent on more than 3.8 million TV ads for local legal services or soliciting legal claims across the United States.

Illinois accounted for $7 million of that spending and more than 60,000 ads.

Of the legal services advertisements aired on national cable and broadcast networks and during nationally syndicated television across the country, nearly one- quarter specifically advertised legal services related to mesothelioma. According to KCIC’s 2020 Industry Report, in 2020, Madison County and St. Clair County were the two most popular jurisdictions in the country for the plaintiffs’ bar to bring asbestos claims. When compared with 2019, Madison County saw an .8% increase in asbestos claims in 2020 while St. Clair County saw a 12.5% increase.

St., Clair, Madison, and Cook Counties are perennially named “Judicial Hellholes®” by the American Tort Reform Foundation in its annual report. The Illinois plaintiffs’ bar is one of the most powerful in the country, donating millions to the campaigns of Illinois office seekers. Between 2001 and 2016, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association’s legislative political action committee contributed $6 million to Illinois candidates, while the Top 25 largest Illinois plaintiffs’ firms, their lawyers, friends and family contributed an additional $29 million.

The plaintiffs’ bar flexed its muscle during Illinois’s 2021 legislative session by introducing numerous pieces of legislation that would have significantly expanded liability. The bills that did not pass in 2021 are expected to come back in the next legislative session, but those that passed in 2021 include:

  • S.B. 72 – Legislation that allows prejudgment interest in personal injury cases;
  • Judicial Redistricting – Democratic leaders in the legislature are attempting to redraw state Supreme Court districts for the first time in 50 years, likely in response to plaintiff-friendly Supreme Court Judge Thomas Kilbride’s defeat in 2020 – redistricting attempts reflect the plaintiffs’ bar’s hopes to refill the seat with a plaintiff-friendly judge in 2022.

The plaintiffs’ bar is aware of the plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions in Illinois and pours millions of dollars into legal advertising in these locales to drum up new business.

“The problem with these ads is that the over-the-top, doomsday ads claiming lethal effects of medications can scare consumers to the point that they might stop using critical, prescribed medications prescribed without consulting their health care providers.

These ads undermine the simple notion that physicians and health care providers – not TV trial lawyers with catchy jingles – should dispense medical advice.” 

ATRA President Tiger Joyce

2019 FDA study shows the real-life consequences of these ads. The report found 66 reports of adverse events following patients discontinuing their blood thinner medication (Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis or Savaysa) after viewing a lawyer advertisement. The median patient age was 70 and 98% stopped medication use without consulting with their doctor. Thirty-three patients experienced a stroke, 24 experienced another serious injury, and seven people died.

“It’s my opinion that the tone and content of these advertisements imply qualitative judgments about these medications that is just not true.

When you say call 1-800-BAD-DRUG, that clearly implies it’s a bad drug, which runs counter to current medical evidence and also to the FDA’s recommendations.” 

Dr. Shawn H. Fleming, doctor for one of the deceased, testifying before Congress

Want more updates on civil justice reform? Sign up for ATRA’s occasional email updates.