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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Racing to the Bottom – Illinois Legislators Continue Efforts to Protect Big Tobacco

The Madison County Record has the story on Illinois’ GOP legislators leading the charge to help protect big tobacco against big bonds in appeals with proposed legislation specific to tobacco companies. Apparently big tobacco is not satisfied with rule changes the Illinois Supreme Court made to allow discretion on the size of bonds after massive verdicts. The effort has failed so far, but will be back. In view of Illinois’ massive pension payments crisis, a cynic might think legislators are secretly hoping that tobacco-caused deaths will help reduce pension costs.

The theme of supporters of the legislation seem to focus on state by state races to the bottom to protect big tobacco against big verdicts. Thus, the article states:

"Rather than propose legislation, Covington said proponents of the measure should petition the state high court to amend Rule 305, which governs stay of judgments pending appeal. He said the court amended this rule shortly after the Philip Morris case.

The court in 2004 changed the rule to give judges discretion to set a bond lower the judgment amount. Citing Price v. Philip Morris, the commentary to the rule amendment noted that "in limited instances, the appeal bond requirement may be so onerous that it creates a barrier to appeal, forcing a party to settle a case or declare bankruptcy."

Putting the Philip Morris case aside, Kay said he believes legislation like SB 1355 needs to be approved in order to create a level playing field for businesses.

He said 44 other states impose caps on appeal bonds at amounts less than the $250 million cap proposed in Illinois.

Kay said Kansas and Michigan have a $25 million limit on appeals bonds while Missouri has a $50 million cap and Wisconsin’s is set at $100 million.

"You look at our neighboring states and they all get it. Why is it we don’t?" he said. "

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