Madison County Named 5th Worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’ For 2014

From the Madison County Record

Recent developments in New York City’s asbestos docket have caused it to be declared the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole by a national legal reform group.

On Tuesday, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) released its annual report (PDF) of the jurisdictions it feels apply laws in an unfair and unbalanced manner. In 2013, New York City placed third, but this year the New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) claimed the top spot.

Madison County ranked No. 5 on the list.

“No Judicial Hellholes report would be complete without the latest dispiriting news from rural Madison County, Illinois, still home to more asbestos litigation than any other jurisdiction in the country,” stated ATRA President Sherman “Tiger” Joyce.

“The overwhelming majority of asbestos claims filed there come from plaintiffs that have no connection to the county, much less the state of Illinois. And most new claims are speculative lung cancer claims.”


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Opinions


Madison County: Still America’s Lawsuit Field Of Dreams

From Lisa Rickard, President of the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

If awards were given to courts that made the biggest impact in mega litigation, Madison County would surely be in the hall of fame.

For more than a decade, the little county in the metro-east has been the nation’s home field for lawsuits. And though Madison County is a veteran of the litigation big leagues, it is showing no signs of slowing down. This despite attention that helped spawn a major federal law written in large measure to counter the county court’s questionable practices.

That is why on Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform launched a public awareness campaign to bring fresh attention to the continuing problems of Madison County lawsuits.

Madison County burst on the scene as a national class action venue around the turn of the century. From 1996 to 2003, its class action docket exploded 5,000 percent, according to analysis of court filings, fueled by cases with plaintiffs and defendants almost exclusively from outside its borders.

This happened because the county was stocked with plaintiffs’-lawyer-friendly judges who refused to dismiss cases as the law demands, despite no local connection by either party. Keeping out-of-state cases in the plaintiffs’ lawyer home field forced lots of big settlements. And big settlements attract more lawsuits.

In 2005, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act to stop plaintiffs’ lawyers from bringing out-of-state cases to lawsuit-friendly state courts — a practice known as venue shopping — by removing them to federal courts.

The law worked. Out-of-state class actions in Madison County and other plaintiffs’-lawyer-friendly jurisdictions plummeted, and for a time, there was hope that the courthouse in Edwardsville would become a fairer jurisdiction, reserved for its own citizens rather than people from Minnesota or Florida.

But it wasn’t to be. At the same time that the new federal law was removing misplaced, class actions in Madison County courts, asbestos case filings — which were also high but saw a brief decline in the mid-2000s — rose again precipitously. Madison County shifted from a class action mecca to an asbestos super docket, with the same old out-of-state cases tactic.

According to public case filings, in 2013, a record 1,660 asbestos cases were brought in Madison County. Only 20 of those involved people who actually live there. The other 99 percent were plaintiffs from places like Texas, California or just about anywhere other than Madison County.

Read the entire commentary.

News Update


ER Malpractice Case Totals 3 Settlements, $10.9 Million

From the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

A suburban hospital has agreed to a $7.5 million settlement with the family of a boy who at age 2 suffered permanent brain damage while awaiting treatment for bacterial meningitis.

The settlement brings the family’s total to $10.9 million following two earlier settlements with other defendants.

In December 2008, Wendy Warmowski called her 2-year-old son’s pediatrician, then took her son to the emergency room at Sherman Hospital in Elgin.

At the hospital, triage staff quickly noticed symptoms of meningitis, said Warmowski’s attorney, William A. Cirignani of Cirignani, Heller & Harman LLP.

“What they didn’t do is treat it,” Cirignani said.

He described the next few hours as a “cascade of errors” before doctors provided the boy with antibiotics to treat his condition.

In her complaint first filed in 2010, Warmowski alleged the ER nurse did not act quickly to get a doctor.

Cirignani said it was almost two hours before the doctor came to treat the boy, while two doctors in the ER at the time were seeing patients with lower acuity levels.

Read more in our daily News Update…