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August 1, 2014

Asbestos Appeals Focus on Madison County, IL’s ‘Forum Shopping’ Reputation

Defendants in three separate Madison County, Ill. asbestos cases have appealed orders denying their forum non conveniens motions to dismiss. They have filed their appeals in the Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth Judicial District.

Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs of the Madison County Circuit Court denied the dismissal requests on May 23 in three separate asbestos personal injury lawsuits.

The defendants, however, argue that Stobbs’ orders are a “clear abuse of discretion” because the case has no relevant connection to Illinois. Further, they claim his orders render “the forum non conveniens doctrine a ‘dead letter’ in cases involving numerous defendants.”

The defendants include Union Carbide Corporation, CBS Corporation, Honeywell International, Inc., Crane Co., Georgia Pacific, LLC, Ingersoll-Rand Company, Trane U.S., Inc., General Electric Company, National Automotive Parts Association, Carlisle Brake & Friction, Inc., 84 Lumber Company and York International Corporation.

They say that Stobbs’ order relies primarily on the “convenience factor” of the forum non convenient statute — which, they argue, should only be one of the many factors deciding forum non convenient motions.

“As all factors need to be considered, convenience does not control the doctrine’s application; connections do; connections that make it the most appropriate jurisdiction,” the appeals state. “So while plaintiffs want to focus on convenience, the Movants believe the courts have always required connections with the forum so that the action will be in the most appropriate jurisdiction.”

Further, they argue, there is “substantial reason to believe” the plaintiffs’ lung cancer “was not caused by asbestos, but rather was caused by exposure to cigarette smoke.” This case will be watched closely by businesses across the country, given Madison County’s status as a hotbed for the filing of out-of-state asbestos litigation. As Legal Newsline reports, “local asbestos docket rose significantly from 325 new asbestos filings in 2006 to 1,678 new filings in 2013, making the county the “epicenter” of asbestos litigation.”

In fact, the defendants claim that forum shopping has become “so prevalent in Madison County that roughly 10 percent of the total new asbestos filings actually come from Illinois residents, and only three new filings of the 656 new asbestos lawsuits so far in 2014 have come from Madison County residents.”

Read the full story here.

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