WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today unveiled a campaign to raise awareness of systemic lawsuit abuse in one of the nation’s most notorious jurisdictions, Madison County, Ill. The effort focuses on out-of-state litigants that are flooding the county court’s asbestos docket.
Due to Madison County’s loose standards for accepting non-residents’ cases, the county has become a national hotbed for asbestos litigation, reaching a record high of 1,660 filings in 2013. Only 20 of those filings—or about one percent of the total—were by plaintiffs who live in the county.
“While Madison County’s ‘field of dreams’ asbestos courthouse might seem positive to plaintiffs’ lawyers, it’s a nightmare for the county’s taxpayers and America’s businesses,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “Madison County courts should be used for Madison County residents, not to enrich out-of-state plaintiffs’ lawyers.”
Out-of-state participants in Madison County asbestos lawsuits are not limited to the plaintiffs, but include their lawyers as well. According to court records, the law firm with the most cases before the asbestos court was the New York-based law firm of Napoli, Bern, Ripka, Shkolnik, LLP with 546, more than one-third of the 2013 asbestos docket.
While Madison County has curbed some abusive practices, such as ending the pre-assignment of asbestos trials to plaintiffs’ law firms, out-of-state cases proliferate. In 2013, Madison County courts heard more asbestos lawsuits brought from Texas than from the entire state of Illinois, illustrating how plaintiffs’ lawyers continue to abuse the county’s lack of venue rule enforcement.
ILR’s public awareness campaign includes a television ad, billboards, direct mail, and online ads that will begin this week.
In December 2013, ILR released a pair of reports spotlighting how abusive litigation in Cook and Madison counties is hurting Illinois’ lawsuit climate. Litigating in the Field of Dreams examined Madison County’s continuing deterioration as a hotbed for asbestos lawsuits, and A Docket on the Brink detailed how Cook County is following a similar path.
In ILR’s most recent Harris survey of state lawsuit climates, Illinois ranked among the worst in the country at 46. The survey respondents named Madison County as the sixth most unfair county nationwide.
For more information on the campaign, and to view the television ad, visit http://www.cleanupmadcocourts.org.
ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.