Study hits waste in Cook lawsuits

 
 
Updated 10/6/2010 6:08 PM

A study to be released today by a grass-roots watchdog group says Cook County spent $54 million in litigation costs last year, the equivalent of 1,200 new police officers or 740 new nurses for the Health & Hospitals System.

The annual study, produced by the Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch, said the county has spent $312 million in litigation since 2005, 136 times the amount spent by neighboring DuPage County. Cook has spent $190 million in judgments and settlements over that time, DuPage $1.4 million.

 

Bartlett Republican Commissioner Timothy Schneider said that was partly apples and oranges, in that DuPage doesn't have the same sort of publicly funded health system, but added, "They absolutely have a point. Any dime we spend toward a malpractice settlement or a workers' comp settlement is money we're taking away from the taxpayers of the county in providing services for the people of the county or returning the money to the people. It's essentially the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Schneider said voters should join county commissioners in lobbying state representatives and senators for tort reform and called Illinois "a playground for trial lawyers, but also granted, "We can do a lot at the county level to do a better job of detecting fraud and following up on these claims.

Although the group, I-LAW, claims to be politically unaffiliated, it does have an agenda in urging smaller government. "The combination of high taxes and out-of-control litigation is a formula for job loss, said Executive Director Travis Akin, of far downstate Marion. He called on voters to take the information to the polls, saying, "Will Cook County residents demand accountability from the County Board candidates or will they be content with the status quo?