In Madison County (IL) courts, the more things change, the more they . . . get worse?
That’s the only plausible conclusion from a recent Madison-St. Clair Record analysis of asbestos cases in the notorious legal jurisdiction. While the total number of asbestos filings is down slightly from last year, the court continues to provide a home for an astounding percentage of out-of-state and out-of-county litigation.
For the past several years, ILR has waged an ad campaign – “Thanks, Madison County!” – to raise awareness of the massive number of asbestos filings by out-of-state plaintiffs in Madison County. Our most recent version of this ad points out that 98% of the nearly 3,000 asbestos cases filed in the county in 2013-2014 were by people who don’t even live there.
It looks like we’re going to have to update our ad.
In 2015, only six of the 1,224 total asbestos plaintiffs — or 0.5% — were filed on behalf of Madison County residents.
And only six percent of the cases were filed on behalf of Illinois residents, which is down from the 10 percent of in-state cases in 2014.
The high rate of out-of-state plaintiffs is a key factor in Madison County’s national reputation as one of the friendliest legal jurisdictions for plaintiffs’ lawyers. Asbestos cases are their specialty. One former Madison County judge estimated that 25 percent of the entire country’s asbestos litigation is filed in the small Metro East county.
Some of these claims are no doubt valid lawsuits. Others may be more questionable. Claims should have some connection to the location of the lawsuit in order to be fair to both the plaintiff and the defense. When 99.5 percent of all asbestos suits in Madison County are filed by people who don’t even live there, justice is called into question. Why should the citizens of the county have their tax dollars go to support a court system that seems to serve everyone else first?
The 2015 asbestos case numbers are not good for a jurisdiction that was ranked among the ten “least fair and reasonable” local court systems in the country, according to ILR’s 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey.
It is past time for Madison County judges to take the issue of out-of-state cases seriously and put the citizens of the Metro East ahead of every other state in the nation.
Until this happens, plaintiffs from around the country continue to say, “Thanks, Madison County!”