Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ Ranks Include Missouri & Madison County

From the American Tort Reform Association

The American Tort Reform Foundation issued its 2015-2016 Judicial Hellholes® report today, naming courts in California, New York City, Florida, Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas and Virginia among the nation’s “most unfair” in their handling of civil litigation.

“With both this annual report and a year-round website, our Judicial Hellholes program since 2002 has been documenting troubling developments in jurisdictions where civil court judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” began American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce.

“Among others, this year’s report shines its harshest spotlight on increasingly plaintiff-friendly courts in the “Show Me Your Lawsuits State” of Missouri and America’s asbestos lawsuit capital, Madison County, Illinois,” Joyce continued.

“Missouri’s reputation for a judicial nominating process controlled by the plaintiffs’ bar, an outlier high court willing to strike down civil justice reforms, and a lax standard for admission of expert testimony continue to discourage private investment in the state’s economy and help earn a #4 Judicial Hellholes ranking,” explained Joyce. “Lawsuits in St. Louis are of particular concern, as plaintiffs’ lawyers enjoy excessive damage awards there and plenty of hospitable for those with asbestos lawsuits.

“Of course, no jurisdiction in the country is any more hospitable to asbestos plaintiffs than Madison County, the #5 Hellhole just across the river. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of asbestos cases there have no connection to the county or even the rest of the state, defendants’ motions to escape the plaintiff-favoring jurisdiction are continually denied and large numbers of trials may be scheduled for a single day, further eroding defendants’ rights to due process and ratcheting up pressure to settle claims out of court.”

#5 MADISON COUNTY, ILLINOIS. Asbestos litigation is an industry in Madison County, which handles about a third of all such lawsuits in the nation. Most of these cases have no connection to Illinois, much less Madison County. Hundreds of cases are set for trial in a single day, a tactic used to pressure defendants into settlements. Local plaintiffs’ law firms have significant sway with the county’s judiciary, getting their colleagues appointed to the bench. And the county’s past as a perennial Judicial Hellhole is the present and future as plaintiffs’ lawyers continue their attempt to resurrect a $10.1 billion judgment stemming from a class action against the tobacco industry that the state’s high court threw out a decade ago.



Editorial: Legal Reform Requires Careful Negotiations

From the Bloomington Pantagraph and Decatur Herald & Review

The state of Illinois either has one of the nation’s worst judicial climates, or is a state where the ordinary plaintiff has a fair chance to win against corporate giants.

It just depends on who you ask. More importantly, it depends on where the money is located.

That’s the result of the news last week that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was proclaiming the Illinois lawsuit climate was one of the worst in the nation.

According to a survey conducted for the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform by Harris Poll, the chamber said only Louisiana and West Virginia have worse lawsuit climates.

The results are based on questionnaires asked of senior company attorneys about how a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to affect important business decisions. So, at best, the results of the survey were pretty predictable.

However, Gov. Bruce Rauner lent his support to the issue, saying the lawsuit environment in the state is hampering economic growth.

“You come here, you open yourself up to attack and excessive judgment against your company,” the governor said.

Rauner has proposed legislation that he says will put the system more into balance. Those reforms include medical awards based on charges rather than actual payments, changing overly inclusive liability standards and limiting venue shopping by plaintiffs.

View the full editorial at the Bloomington Pantagraph…

News Update

Illinois Will Delay Pension Payment, Citing Cash Shortage

From Crain’s Chicago Business

Illinois will delay payments to its pension fund as a prolonged budget impasse causes a cash shortage, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger said.

The spending standoff between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders has extended into its fourth month with no signs of ending. Munger said her office will postpone a $560 million retirement-fund payment next month, and may make the December contribution late.

“This decision is choosing the least of a number of bad options,” Munger told reporters in Chicago on Wednesday. “For all intents and purposes, we are out of money now.”

Munger said the pension systems will be paid in full by the end of the fiscal year in June. The state still is making bond payments, and retirees are receiving checks, she said.

“We prioritize the bond payments above everything else,” Munger told reporters.

The pension payment delay was inevitable, said some who have been watching the budget gridlock.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, which monitors Illinois finances.

“Every month they go without resolving the impasse on the budget means it’ll cost more to ultimately resolve it,” Martire said. “This is a natural, predictable consequence if you do something called math.”

Read more in our daily News Update…