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“Judicial Hellhole” Rankings Distort Purpose of Civil Justice System

Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and nursing home neglect attorney at our firm is very familiar with the constant misconceptions that are shared about the legal system each day. It remains startling that there are so many falsehoods or distorted statements made and perpetuated in news stories about how the civil justice system works the way it does and why. These misguided portrayals are most often pushed by those who are simultaneously hoping to enact policy changes which alter rules about who can file lawsuits, how they are adjudicated, and what victims receive upon a liability ruling. It goes without saying that when discussing changes to the system that so many have depended on for hundreds of years at the very least the debate should begin with honest assessments about the current reality of that system. Far too often that is not the case.

For example, take the example of the headline catching “Judicial Hellhole” list put forward every year by a group that wants to take away the rights of injury victims via tort reform legislation. Two southern Illinois counties recently made the list and Cook County was placed on a “watch list.” Of course, these arbitrary designations are not at all based on any objective criteria alleging any improper legal work is being done. Instead, the list is based almost entirely on the random decisions of a few involved with the organization and their determination on which locations injury victims happen to win certain awards following jury trials.

These lists do nothing more than paint an incorrect picture of the justice system and rile up public resentment for reasons that have no connection to fact. Disturbingly, it is lists like this (and the media attention that they receive) that results in some members of the public thinking that so many problems can be solved by taking away victims legal rights. Everything from lowering medical costs to lowering the country’s fiscal imbalance could be cured if only tort reform were enacted-or so say some.

Tort reform proposals always include medical malpractice provisions and increasingly would apply to many other types of injury cases-including those involving nursing home abuse. The most popular tort reform proposal is damage caps would limit the amount that a jury could award following an injury. The call for tort reform is often made as one that has overwhelming public support. However, what every Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm knows, but what tort reformers ignore, is that awards are almost always decided upon by juries who are made up of the very people who supposedly overwhelmingly want tort reform. If so many of these tort reform groups were to be believed, one might suspect that plaintiff’s attorneys simply decided how much money their clients should get without any input from others. Of course, the reality is that in every case the both the plaintiff and defendant are allowed to share specific evidence with a group of community members chosen by both parties. It is only after balanced process that those groups of citizens decide upon a fair outcome.

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