Response to 'Stopping Lawsuit Abuse Starts With You'

Travis Akin’s column encouraging jurors in civil cases to “ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed” bordered on jury tampering and was an overt attempt to save his financial backers from accountability when their negligence or reckless behavior injures or kills innocent people (“Stopping lawsuit abuse starts with you”).

Akin, the face of front group I-Law, exhorted citizens to enter courtrooms believing anyone filing a lawsuit failed to take personal responsibility for their actions. What about a child, mom or father permanently disabled by a truck driver’s negligent behavior? Is that lawsuit “frivolous”?

Injured people are often delayed compensation because of routinely filed frivolous defenses to meritorious lawsuits. They defend the indefensible for years to wear suffering individuals down financially and force them to take less than fair compensation for their injuries.

Our justice system screens out the very few suits without merit. What we truly need to address are the frivolous defenses Mr. Akin’s wealthy, powerful backers continually use to try to force their victims into accepting less than reasonable compensation.

The clear implication of Akin’s column is that jurors should reject the claims of the injured. He sought to inject partisanship and politics into the application of the law, which no judge or juror should ever do. The job of our civil justice system is to apply the law as it's written.

Akin and his special-interest friends are fond of saying lawsuits relating to injury or death resulting from negligence or reckless behavior are somehow responsible for hurting Illinois business and driving unemployment. He cited a “lawsuit abuse” study by the “non-partisan” research company Harris Interactive – but failed to mention that the study was funded by the biggest pro-business organization in the United States – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

That survey relied on interviews with attorneys and executives “at public and private companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million.” That’s not exactly a sample representative of the average Illinois business, to say the least.

Akin also failed to mention that more than 70 percent of lawsuits are filed by his very own financial supporters – businesses suing businesses for money. He conveniently ignored the fact that injury cases make up just 6 percent of all lawsuits.

In fact, according to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, lawsuits rank 71st out of 75 issues small businesses find important. Taxes, energy prices and the cost of labor are far more important factors for a company deciding where to locate.

But facts don’t serve the interests of Akin’s financial backers. The insurance, tobacco and oil industries have consistently shown themselves willing to say anything to scare citizens from exercising their constitutional right to hold negligent drivers, polluters, careless professionals and reckless manufacturers responsible for their dangerous actions.

When our justice system holds accountable a company whose defective product causes injury or death to an individual, Akin would have you believe the fault lies with the victim – that a victim maimed or horrendously burned should never have looked to the courts for justice.

That’s a scary vision indeed. The justice system envisioned by Akin, and the powerful special interests behind him, would allow wrongdoers to run roughshod over their victims, without fear of accountability or justice rightly served.