A survey of the executives who lead companies that are members of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry finds 82 percent say Iowa’s legal climate is “hurting job growth.” Iowa Association of Business and Industry vice president John Gilliland says the costs of litigation — coupled with just the fear of litigation — are influencing the attitudes of Iowa business executives.
Over 13-hundred Iowa companies are members of the association, and the survey asked the presidents and C-E-Os of those companies to share their views on Iowa’s legal climate. “They’re telling us they are very concerned,” Gilliland says. “They’re concerned that the cost of doing business has gone up in Iowa directly related to litigation costs and the fear of litigation and so that reflects negatively on our over-all business climate.”
The business group has asked the state’s legislators and governor to impose limits on the amount of so-called “non-economic damages” for “pain and suffering” that are awarded in lawsuits. Iowa’s current governor, Democrat Tom Vilsack, has opposed such limits as he says juries in Iowa aren’t awarding huge settlements in lawsuits against individuals, like doctors, or businesses.
But Gilliland says that’s only part of the picture. “We know and our members tell us they often are contacted by legal counsel with the threat of litigation…seeking settlements and payments for perceived damages, so you can’t just look at the number of cases that are filed and actually go to trial,” Gilliland says.
“There’s a whole ‘nother group of potential lawsuits that also impact doing business in the state.” Two-thirds of the business leaders who responded to the survey were unhappy with state policymakers for failing to enact limits on the “pain and suffering” awards in liability lawsuits. More than three-hundred thousand Iowans are employed at the 13-hundred Iowa businesses that are part of the Association of Business and Industry.