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posted: 1/31/2010 12:01 AM

Demand candidates stop lawsuit abuse

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Demand candidates stop lawsuit abuse

Cook County voters received a welcome Christmas present when the Cook County Board finally secured enough votes to roll back the unpopular countywide sales tax hike. Of course, it took an act of the General Assembly to make this possible.

But while taxpayers in Cook County may finally have some tax relief, the grim reality is Cook County residents are still suffering under the weight of living in the lawsuit tax capital of the U.S.

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch recently conducted a comprehensive examination of the amount of money Cook County government spends on litigation expenses, including settlements and verdicts, and found that the Cook County Board paid out nearly $70 million of taxpayers' dollars in 2008 alone to offset litigation-related costs.

For the sake of comparison, Cook County spent 738 times more money on litigation expenses than DuPage County even though Cook has six times as many people as DuPage. Had that $70 million not been wasted on lawsuit expenses, the county would have been able to hire 1,540 new sheriff's deputies, hire 945 new nurses for County hospitals or resurface about 200 miles of county roads. The nearly $70 million in legal costs paid by the county in 2008 to fight frivolous lawsuits is draining money out of the county's budget, compelling county leaders to keep the sales tax high. In reality, everyone in Cook County is paying a hidden "lawsuit tax" because County government is such a strong magnet for lawsuits.

With the primary election just around the corner, Cook County voters have a chance to elect candidates who will take a stand and vow to change the county's reputation as a lucrative and easy target for lawsuits. Continuing to waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars should not be acceptable.

Travis Akin

Executive Director

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch