Guest Column: It’s Time to Stop Lawsuit Abuse in Illinois
Date: February 05, 2020
Robert Goray, owner of J.S. Goray Inc., an NFIB member business in Wauconda, wrote the following column about the need for legal reform in Illinois.
Establishing a small business comes with many challenges. One challenge an aspiring entrepreneur should never face is determining how to fight off a litany of lawsuits. Unfortunately, that is exactly the problem many small-business owners in Illinois know far too much about.
Illinois has a major problem with lawsuit abuse. Many of our business regulations leave room for meritless claims. Said claims pack our courtrooms and abuse taxpayer resources just so trial lawyers can go after a payout. Even worse, there are many problems Illinois trial lawyers try to solve in court that should never be cause for a lawsuit. One prime example is workers’ compensation litigation.
The first priority for those who run a small business is always safety. I know this firsthand – my business in commercial building façade maintenance is one where precaution always needs to be my primary concern. Unfortunately, no matter how many safety measures we put into place, there are always risks. Accidents can happen, but that doesn’t mean that every accident should turn into a lawsuit. That is exactly why the best approach to workers’ compensation claims isn’t a court fight, but instead well-meaning and mediated arbitration.
When things are settled cooperatively through arbitration, workers’ compensation claims can better ensure any damages are fairly addressed without expensive legal teams getting involved. It is ultimately a process that is fairer for everyone involved and better at solving the problems at hand. Just about everything becomes more complicated once lawyers get involved, and this is no exception.
However, my role as an Illinois Chairman and Leadership Trust member of the National Federation of Independent Business has taught me that arbitration is more often the exception rather than the rule. Instead, trial lawyers across the state use workers’ compensation claims as a tool to force small businesses into expensive settlements. As these legal costs pile up, they take away from a business’ capacity to invest in hiring new employees, expanding their business, and doing more to support their community.
Now is the time for us to tell our elected officials that we have had enough. Lawsuit abuse has been a problem for too long in Illinois, and it must come to an end.
Our legislators need to pass legal reforms that encourage arbitration rather than lawsuits. By doing so, they can show us all they are truly dedicated to their responsibilities as a public servant. Even beyond passing laws to discourage workers’ compensation lawsuits, there is always room for improvement. By addressing things like premises liability that are used to bring vague and uncertain claims, lawmakers can get ahead of the problem and start to fight for Illinois’ small businesses.
Small-businesses are a vital part of communities across the state. We have every responsibility to create a legal environment that promotes establishment and growth of small businesses so that Illinois’ economy can benefit. Without action, we not only risk losing our home-grown businesses and employees but fail to attract talented individuals from outside of our great state.
The time has come for Illinois to become a business-friendly state that says “no” to meritless lawsuits and says “yes” to the hardworking people that want to make Illinois a better place to live, work and grow.