A poll of business attorneys across the nation found Illinois has no equal when it comes to lawsuits.

A Harris poll conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform polled more than 1,300 corporate attorneys and senior executives nationwide to get their opinions on every state’s legal climate toward businesses. The report, released Wednesday, found Illinois was seen as the worst in the nation, a drop from previous years.

The report also found these opinions regarding the legal climate were becoming more important when considering geographic growth.

“... a state’s litigation environment continues to be important to senior litigators, with most respondents (89 percent) reporting that it is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or do business,” the report said.

In 2018, Illinois was ranked 48th. It fell to last in 2019. Respondents said Illinois was worse than any other state when it comes to matters of enforcing meaningful venue requirements, tort and contract litigation, proportional discovery and “trial judge competence.”

The biggest problem with a litigious business climate is it creates uncertainty, the report’s authors wrote.

“Illinois has become a legal pariah for American companies,” Institute for Legal Reform Chief Operating Officer Harold Kim said.

In Illinois, Kim said the lawyers polled viewed the state’s litigation hotspots, Cook and Madison counties, as places that would accept lawsuits even though the justification for choosing that county as a venue might be thin.

“The level of risk, when it comes to litigation, like just bet-the-company litigation, is just completely beyond the pale,” he said.

Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which makes Illinois the only state that allows private citizens to file lawsuits against companies for collecting fingerprints or other similar data, was something Kim said makes Illinois particularly hostile to business.

“[It’s] fueled hundreds and hundreds of class-action [lawsuits] throughout the state,” he said.

A number of companies don’t offer technology to Illinois residents for fear of lawsuits.

Another study conducted for the Illinois Civil Justice League, a pro-business lawsuit reform group, showed that the state’s legal climate costs Illinois businesses an estimated $3.8 billion in excessive tort costs annually. Those costs are passed on to consumers, the study said.

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

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