We hear a lot about “Judicial hellhole” labels, referring to geographic areas of our country in which tort reformers want to make sweeping changes to defeat the rights of innocent people who have suffered the most serious injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence. These labels are pure propaganda, and are shamelessly published and repeated by media which are careless (to put it kindly) about verifying the accuracy of the outrageous claims made by corporate, medical, hospital and insurance interests. They would like to nothing more than to minimize their own financial exposure and accountability by blaming our jury system, and fair-minded people like you who sit on those juries, for large verdicts and settlements. In fact, our judicial system was created to level the playing field of ordinary people and small businesses who had been at the mercy of corporate irresponsibility. Can you spell ENRON? BP? Do they exude a sense of responsibility? Of a sensitivity to those they’ve harmed? The answer is clear… Instead of standing for corporate and individual responsibility, big business, the insurance and medical industries stand together to crush the rights of individuals who have been harmed by wrongdoers.
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) is dedicated to help corporations evade responsibility for wrongdoing by undermining the civil justice system. Each year at this time ATRA issues an update to its inflammatorily titled “Judicial Hellholes” report, employing junk research to stoke public fear and foster misperception about how the legal system works. This report, like so many in the past, contains factual inaccuracies which further undermine the validity of their so-called “rankings”.
Even the Illinois Civil Justice League, which is closely allied with ATRA, disagrees with the placement of Madison County on the judicial hellhole list and has stated that Madison County and its judicial leadership have taken major steps toward improvement of its judicial system and is not deserving of the “hellhole” title.
Oftentimes, citizens can only get a fair shake by taking their grievances to court, particularly when taking on such powerful special interests. No entity, government official or business should be permitted to use its power to infringe upon the right of citizens to have their day in court.
The fact is that corporations don’t fear frivolous lawsuits. If they are truly frivolous, they are lost. They DO fear MERITORIOUS cases… actions brought by citizens against corporations producing unsafe products, polluting air and water, swindling their employees, or otherwise acting irresponsibly. They DO fear actions against doctors and hospitals who have neglected reasonable standards of practice and maimed and killed innocent patients by their neglect. Every measure that tort reformers suggest has been intended to make it harder and harder, and more and more expensive, for people to bring their meritorious cases to court. The most common goal of tort reformers is to put artificial limits on the amount of damages that can be recovered in cases where it has been proven that the damages sought to be recovered by the injured plaintiff WAS caused by the defendant’s neglect! They don’t care what the evidence shows, or what YOU believe is fair for that individual case.
The real “judicial hellhole” is the one that ATRA and its allies wish to create: a court system in which regular citizens have no prospects for fair treatment and justice because their hard-won rights have been stripped away by powerful special interests.