Asbestos Cases Down In First Half Of 2014; Simmons Firm Filed Most And Mostly Meso

From the Madison County Record

A national asbestos docket that doubled in four years and tripled in the last seven may be contracting a bit. At mid-year, a total of 656 asbestos cases have been filed in Madison County.

If the pace of cases filed through June 30 continues through the year, the nation’s busiest asbestos docket will be down by approximately 20 percent over last year’s record-setting figure of 1,678.

In a review of the new cases, the vast majority of new claimants – 90 percent or 590 total – come from states other than Illinois, which is consistent with Madison County’s well-established pattern. Of the 66 Illinois claimants, three reside within Madison County.

Also of note, the incidence of lung cancer claims – which has been the driver of the docket’s significant increase in recent years – has decreased. So far this year, lung cancer cases represent just 30 percent of the total, or 194 new cases.

Until last year, the vast majority of asbestos claims brought in Madison County were on behalf of victims of mesothelioma, a deadly asbestos-related disease. But last year the number of lung cancer cases spiked, making up approximately 45 percent of the caseload.

The increase in lung cancer cases came after an advance trial setting system that provided advantage to the three largest asbestos firms – Simmons, Gori and Julian and Goldenberg – was eliminated. That change provided opportunity for other firms, local and national.

The New York-based Napoli firm, which in recent years established an office in Madison County, dominated the 2013 docket, representing 32 percent, or approximately 525 plaintiffs. More than 90 percent of those cases were on behalf of lung cancer claimants.

At mid-year, the Napoli firm has filed 124 of the 656 cases, or 19 percent of the total.



It’s Time To Change Judicial Selection Process

From ICJL President Ed Murnane

It is becoming a familiar story – even a boring, tiresome story.

Every year in December, the American Tort Reform Association issues a report calling attention to the worst judicial jurisdictions in the U.S. – jurisdictions which ATRA determines are “judicial hellholes.”

As a former member of the ATRA board of directors – chairman of the board, even – I know the review that leads to the ranking is thorough and fair and honest.

The “judicial hellhole” description may seem strong, even harsh, but it is accurate. The description is assigned to those legal jurisdictions in the United States in which fairness and common sense do not prevail. These are jurisdictions in which balance – and supposedly justice – are determined by judges (and maybe, but rarely, by juries) after listening to the pleadings of both sides.

Illinois is a perennial home of one, usually two, and sometimes even three “hellholes.” Madison and St. Clair counties have winning streaks going; they are almost always in the top ten, as they were this year (ranked sixth, jointly). Cook County, that legal cesspool at the opposite end of I-55, is on the “watch” list this year, which means it is not a full-blown hellhole but close enough among the thousands of legal jurisdictions in the United States to make the ATRA news release.

The quality of courts – and the fairness of courts – is primarily determined by the quality and the fairness of the judges. If the judge is “bought” or “crooked,” chances are the judgments in his or her courtroom will be suspect. If a good, honest and clean judge is practicing in a “suspect” jurisdiction, his or her performance can be viewed as tainted too, regardless of whether the judge was a choir boy or flower girl in earlier years.

The quality and integrity and fairness and honesty – and probably many other descriptive words – of judges is largely determined by who the judge is, and how he or she is selected and placed in that seat of supposed wisdom and fairness.

Read the entire commentary…

News Update

Sen. Kirk’s Office Challenges Illinois Migrant Figures

From the Associated Press

Recent data released by the federal government may reflect only a fraction of how many unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border are in Illinois, with state officials saying hundreds more could be at shelters.

In a state-by-state list made public Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families said 305 children were released to Illinois sponsors from Jan. 1 through July 7 of this year. However, Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s office said Friday federal data given to his office this month shows that another 429 children were at Illinois shelters as of July 8.

Kirk’s office said Friday the number of children at the shelters fluctuates. A message left for a federal health and human services spokesman wasn’t immediately returned.

Illinois is prepared to “help in whatever way necessary,” Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday. His comment comes as governors in some other states, including Idaho, have asked federal officials not to send any of the children.

“We have a responsibility to ensure all children are treated with respect, compassion and dignity,” the Chicago Democrat said in a statement. “My administration will continue to discuss this important subject with other federal, state and local elected officials.”

The details of how and where the children are kept in Illinois as they await immigration proceedings are sparse.

The U.S. faces a sharp rise in unaccompanied minors who have been fleeing violence in Central America and crossing into the U.S. because they believe they will be allowed to stay.

Read more in our daily News Update…