Results matching “Madison Illinois”

StlToday.com reports:

Judge Clarence Harrison dealt a swift blow to the Madison County asbestos litigation system by ordering all 2013 asbestos cases to be set on a "case-by-case basis." The order came just three days after Harrison heard arguments for and against a previous judge's order allowing certain law firms to reserve trial dates in 2013, even though many of the cases weren't on file with the court.

Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), issued a statement applauding Madison County Circuit Judge Clarence Harrison's decision to end the pre-assignment of asbestos trials to plaintiffs' law firms. After recent controversy involving Judge Barbara Crowder, who was removed from the asbestos docket after her campaign committee received $30,000 from plaintiffs' lawyers shortly after she awarded their firms most of the court's 2013 trial times, asbestos trials will now be set on a case-by-case basis.

Once the subject of an inspiring tale of recovery in the context of civil justice reform, Madison County, Illinois has found itself yet again featured in the American Tort Reform Association's annual 'Judicial Hellholes' report. Ranked fifth on ATRA's list, Madison County has unfortunately reclaimed its reputation as the nation's "epicenter" for asbestos litigation.

ATRA's report cites some alarming statistics:

In 2003, asbestos filings in the county peaked at 953. After Judicial Hellholes reporting spurred public scrutiny of the magnet jurisdiction, judges became more serious about transferring cases that belonged in other areas. By 2006, asbestos filings in Madison County reached a low point of 325. Since then, however, the number of such filings has increased each year to 455 in 2007, 639 in 2008, 814 in 2009, and 840 in 2010, as documented by Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW). Only about 1 in 10 of Madison County's asbestos cases are filed by people who actually live or work there, or have any other connection to the area, according to an Illinois Civil Justice League study. According to one local defense lawyer, asbestos claims account for nearly 60 percent of Madison County suits seeking more than $50,000, eclipsing the claims of local residents.

Defendant companies and other legal observers note that plaintiffs' lawyers flock to Madison County because the court sets aside about 500 trial dates for asbestos cases. The trial dates provide a steady stream of business for favored local law firms, with whom out-of-state lawyers must work to pursue their cases. Defendants are placed at a disadvantage given the expedited treatment of cases and the power given to plaintiffs' lawyers to set the trial schedule. Because defendants may not know which cases will go to trial until the last minute, they often prepare for multiple cases simultaneously, pay for expert reports they do not need, and must travel across the United States to take depositions.

As if in anticipation of ATRA's report, only days before the release of 'Judicial Hellholes', news broke that Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder of Madison County, assigned to oversee the circuit court's asbestos docket, was to be removed to civil assignments. Chief Judge Ann Callis filed the order after discovering that attorneys of three plaintiffs' firms donated, in sum, $30,000 to Judge Crowder's campaign fund only a few days subsequent to being chosen by Judge Crowder to receive a majority of the trial slots on the 2013 asbestos docket.

Judge Crowder denied a connection between the donations and her "activities on the bench", but, there was no denying the appearance of impropriety especially in light of Madison County's notoriety with regard to asbestos litigation. Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, called on the court to "fix the fundamental flaw of Madison County's asbestos docket calendar system that in effect puts court time up for sale."

The Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform called for this and more in a report in 2010 focusing solely on reforming Madison County's warped asbestos litigation system, concluding even then:

The solution to this problem is simple: apply the law as written. If venue rules are enforced, fair procedures for trial allocation and scheduling adopted, discovery of the bankruptcy trusts provided and the Lipke rule regarding alternative cause implemented as mandated by the Illinois Supreme Court, the jurisdiction would return to normal and appropriate operations.

It was hoped that Judge Crowder would clean up the asbestos litigation abuse mess when she took over last year, however, it seems that fundamental procedural changes have to be implemented to effectively repair Madison County's civil justice system.

Madison County asbestos - PointOfLaw Forum

Plaintiff-friendly procedures in infamous judicial hellhole Madison County are "a cautionary tale about the power of procedural 'innovations,' the ability of a judge or judges in one location to impact the entire national system of litigation, the extreme mobility of asbestos claims and the tyranny of economic incentives." [ILR; LNL]

Around the web, April 19 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Alien Tort Statute: Citing lack of causation, judge dismisses case tying Mideast terror to oil sales [Russell Jackson]
  • A history of federal intervention in executive pay [Bachelder, NYLJ/Harvard Corporate Governance Blog via Bainbridge]
  • McKool law firm of Dallas does well on patent-suit contingency work [WSJ Law Blog]
  • St. Clair County, Ill., nearby sibling of Madison, attracting many asbestos cases [Hartley, more]
  • Bill moving through Connecticut legislature would limit use of criminal background checks on workers [Daniel Schwartz]
  • The kind of pre-emption products liability plaintiffs adore [Beck et al]

Lawless nullification by the Illinois Supreme Court will cost the state's health care sector dearly [Mike Colias, Crain's Chicago Business] And: "State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) has introduced a constitutional amendment to keep the Illinois Supreme Court from overturning future medical malpractice reform laws." [Ann Knef, MC Record]

Outrage at Illinois med-mal decision - PointOfLaw Forum

The Facebook group and the petition, among other reactions (earlier).

Illinois high court strikes down malpractice limits - PointOfLaw Forum

It's for the third time, and confirms that the court simply will not be bound by the duly enacted acts of the legislature when certain issues important to its lawyer constituency are at stake. I made these comments for the Heartland Institute:

"The court's supposed separation of powers rationale simply can't be taken seriously. Legislatures pass new laws prescribing the legal consequences of civil breaches all the time, and no one imagines that the court would have struck down this legislative intervention had it expanded damages as opposed to limiting them.

"At this point, if Illinois wants to put the voters and their representatives back in charge, it will need either to alter its constitution or--perhaps a better idea--alter the composition of its supreme court."

On page 21 of its opinion, the court has to confront the fact that the Illinois legislature has often limited common law damages in other circumstances without being found unconstitutional. An Innkeeper's Protection Act, for example, limits the liability of hotel owners to a fixed sum no matter what the value of the goods lost by the guest. The court absurdly seeks to distinguish this instance by noting that the innkeeper statute "also allows the parties to contract around the statutory limit." As if it would have upheld malpractice limits had they been paired with an option of contracting around the statutory limit!

The court's decision yesterday, like its earlier two decisions striking down medical liability limits, is lawless. It is best understood as a peremptory act of will and a power play in the familiar, if ugly, tradition of Illinois politics.

P.S. From the ABA: we disagree with the Illinois statute's policy content. Must be unconstitutional! More coverage: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Madison County Record, Dan Pero/American Courthouse. And a strong editorial reaction from the Chicago Tribune ("A disastrous decision"):

...The court threw out a sound law that has worked. The court threw out a sound law and essentially told the state's lawmakers: Don't even bother to try this again. ...

Justice Lloyd Karmeier, joined in a dissent by Justice Rita Garman, wrote that the court's wisdom in that previous decision "has not only been rejected by the federal courts, it has failed to carry the day in any reported decision in any other state in the United States since it was filed 12 years ago."

Nobody has recognized the wisdom of the Illinois Supreme Court on this matter ... except the Illinois Supreme Court.

Around the web, September 21 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Med mal mini-roundup: "Medical liability insurer says caps law has stabilized malpractice rates" [MC Record, Illinois] Mixed verdict on Texas reforms [Mitchell Schnurman, Star-Telegram] Interview with Florida neurosurgeon & AANS president Troy Tippett [PNW] Tennessee med-mal filings drop sharply after state adopts pre-notice, certificate of good faith reforms [Day, first and second followups] Washington high court strikes down certificate of merit law [Day] "Georgia Supreme Court to Decide Constitutionality of Med Mal Damage Caps" [TortsProf, WSJ Law Blog]
  • Foundation for Fair Civil Justice (Bob Dorigo Jones) doing video and audio features on lawsuit abuse [Legal Reform TV]
  • "Point-Counterpoint: Repairing the Clean Water Act" [Federalist Society Engage]
  • "'Docket Science': Is it Time for an Inactive Docket in California to Manage Asbestos Workload?" [Cal Civil Justice]
  • "Looking at the Logic Behind Shareholder Class-Action Suits" [WSJ Law Blog]
  • "Ohio Pharmacist Going To Jail Over Botched Prescription" [Bull's-Eye Blog via Ohio Employer]

Kelly Holleran at the Madison County Record reports that attorneys Thomas Maag and Peter Maag have filed a putative class action against Whitehaven Settlement Fund, a litigation funding firm that lent money to Illinois litigants in defiance (they say) of Illinois policy against assigning litigation claims. They say the firm employed a choice-of-law clause purporting to bring the dealings under New York law, as well as a requirement that disputes be arbitrated in New York. Apparently this is not the first class action to be aimed at a litigation settlement funding firm; Popehat cites the 2005 North Carolina case of Odell v Legal Bucks LLC, which led to this mixed ruling last September by an appeals court in that state.

Initial thoughts on Caperton - PointOfLaw Forum

The political contribution in Caperton certainly was unseemly. And it was on the outer bound of what we typically see in contested judicial elections. But I question whether it was as "extraordinary" as Justice Kennedy and the justices in the majority seemed to think. For instance, the following part of Chief Justice Roberts's dissent caught my eye: "'Consumers for Justice'--an independent group that received large contributions from the plaintiffs' bar--spent approximately $2 million in this race."

Such oversized contributions from plaintiffs' lawyers in judicial campaigns are the norm, rather than the exception. And it is quite often the case that a single lawyer or firm will dominate such expenditures. For instance, in the Center for Legal Policy's Trial Lawyers, Inc.: Illinois report, we noted that of the $1.3 million raised/spent by the so-called "Justice for All" PAC erected to support the election of Gordon Maag to the state supreme court, "Madison County asbestos lawyer Randy Bono gave Justice for All almost $400,000, while the law firm with which he's affiliated, Simmons Cooper, chipped in $275,000." All told, the Simmons Cooper firm poured over $1 million into supporting Maag's campaign.

Had Maag been elected, would he have had to recuse himself in all cases involving Simmons Cooper? If not, why not?

Surely, a lawyer could come up with a possible distinction. But would such distinctions really be compelling? Is the answer perhaps that Simmons Cooper has multiple matters before the courts, such that independent expenditures on judicial campaigns are perversely disqualifying in inverse proportion to one's litigiousness? Or perhaps the answer is that, however much Simmons Cooper gave to Maag, its share of total expenditures was less than that West Virginia contributor Blankenship's, who gave "approximately two-thirds" of the money given to the "And for the Sake of the Kids" PAC? In the latter case, we must conclude that one's ability to compromise a judge for purposes of the U.S. Constitution is dependant on one's political fundraising prowess, so that a complete defense against constitutional violation might emanate from one's effective use of direct mail.

I think Justice Scalia has it right:

Divinely inspired text may contain the answers to all earthly questions, but the DueProcess Clause most assuredly does not. The Court today continues its quixotic quest to right all wrongs and repair all imperfections through the Constitution. Alas, the quest cannot succeed--which is why some wrongs and imperfections have been called nonjusticiable. In the best of all possible worlds, should judges sometimes recuse even where the clear commands of our prior due process law do not require it? Undoubtedly. The relevant question, however, is whether we do more good than harm by seeking to correct this imperfection through expansion of our constitutional mandate in a manner ungoverned by any discernable rule. The answer is obvious.

Around the web, June 8 - PointOfLaw Forum

Asbestos in Springfield, Missoula and Washington - PointOfLaw Forum

The Illinois Supreme Court today reversed its 1987 Lipke rule that prohibited defendants in asbestos cases from introducing evidence about other exposures the plaintiffs may have experienced. The Madison County Record (Ill.) has the details about the 5-1 opinion in the case, Nolan v. Weil-McLain, in "Illinois Supreme Court strikes long-time asbestos evidence ruling." (The opinion is here as a .pdf file).

The original plaintiff was a plumber-pipefitter who worked many years in jobs exposing him to amphibole asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma, but only 20-25 times in 38 years to chrysotile asbestos, which studies show do not cause mesothelioma. But the defendant company was not allowed to introduce evidence of the plaintiff's exposure to amphibole asbestos.

Ed Murnane of the Illinois Civil Justice League remarks: "By striking down the arbitrary provisions of Lipke - the ruling that made it impossible for Illinois judges to grant a fair trial to defendants - the Supreme Court is improving the legal environment in Illinois and, finally, allowing defendants to actually present their side of the case at trial." The ICJL and my employers at the National Association of Manufacturers joined other business and legal-reform groups in filing an amicus brief, which you can access at the NAM's Legal Beagle here. And there's more background from the Record in this story.

Out in Missoula, meanwhile, the criminal trial continues in U.S. District Court of former W.R. Grace executives accused of covering out the health consequences of asbestos exposure from vermiculite mining in Libby, Montana. Strange how little national attention this CRIMINAL case for obstruction and violation of the Clean Air Act is receiving.

Around the web, March 12 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Maryland trial lawyers once again pushing Annapolis bill to open up suits against former lead paint manufacturers [Marta Mossberg, D.C. Examiner]
  • U. of Chicago emergency room under fire for sending dog-bit kid home. What's the ultimate lesson? [White Coat]
  • Expert on economics of piracy has book out next month titled The Invisible Hook [Dubner, Freakonomics]
  • "Everything from an alarming advertisement to a cockroach baked in a pie": what can't be called "public nuisance"? [Maureen Martin via Genova]
  • Prejudgment interest bill in Springfield could be a sort of stimulus bill for Illinois trial lawyers [Travis Akin, I-LAW via Pero]
  • James Zirin reviews Philip Howard's Life Without Lawyers [NY Law Journal]

Illinois AG Lisa Madigan in the news - PointOfLaw Forum

With the Obama Senate seat vacant and the governorship of Illinois quite possibly soon to become vacant given the arrest and disgrace of incumbent Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's name now regularly comes up as a prospect for higher office. Madigan has, as expected, been active in office in going after business defendants, and her much-publicized lawsuit against Countrywide this summer over its mortgage lending practices drew criticism from the late Tanta of Calculated Risk (see also Felix Salmon). On the other hand, she got some surprisingly favorable publicity in October from the Madison County Record:

Fears that Madigan would be a trial-happy opponent of tort reform groups have so far proven unfounded, said Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League.

"She's been a pleasant surprise to those of us who were concerned that she would be very closely aligned and sympathetic to plaintiffs' lawyers," said Murnane, who serves on the board of directors of the American Tort Reform Association.

One other favorable data point here (stayed out of dubious lead paint nuisance amicus joined by 16 AGs).

Around the web, September 30 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Gigantic wave of investor litigation presumably on the way, but it's not easy to predict the degree of success it will have [NLJ]
  • Connecticut's state version of the EEOC, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, assailed as "hopelessly inept" and unable to follow own rules [Karen Lee Torre @ CLT; Daniel Schwartz]
  • Wanna bring plaintiffs from around the country to sue drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis in Illinois's cozy St. Clair County over antibiotic Ketek? Sure, c'mon down, judge says [Madison County Record, more]
  • State of New Jersey -- controversially represented by outside contingency-fee counsel Alan Kanner of Kanner & Whiteley of New Orleans and Bruce Nagel of Nagel Rice in Roseland, N.J. -- clears key hurdle in litigation demanding that ExxonMobil fork over huge sums for past pollution [NJLJ]
  • Why have those asbestos-in-cigarette-filters lawsuits faded from the news? Because Lorillard has been racking up defense verdicts [AmLaw Daily]
  • NYT's Adam Liptak may turn his much-noted "American Exception" series on law into a book [Obbie/LawBeat]

Around the web, September 8 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Citing pre-emption, court throws out suit over nondisclosure of supposed cellphone-cancer link, big win for telecom defendants [Legal Intelligencer]
  • Lawyers invite themselves into another new area: ABA House of Delegates endorses doing away with Feres barrier to med mal suits against military docs [ABA Journal]
  • Folly of cities' efforts to use public nuisance law against subprime mortgage players [Faulk, Gray, Larson for WLF; more here and here]
  • Guilty plea in non-law-related scandal marks downfall of Madison County's Thomas Lakin, once a leading class action lawyer [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • Juror's-eye view of a Bronx whiplash trial [Inner City Press, scroll to Jul. 21]
  • Don't forget AEI's upcoming conference on the future of federalism with many familiar names [in D.C. on Friday]

Around the web, July 9 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Paris's Le Figaro warns Europe against going down the U.S. path on class actions [The Moderate Voice]
  • Tennessee docs hoping new law requiring 60 days notice and expert attestation of merit will curb dubious cases [Minch/Tennessean]
  • Not much chance lawmakers will investigate charges that business-bashing political group ACORN was promoting liar loans [Malkin; Adler @ Volokh]
  • Reforming judicial selection a necessity if Alabama is to turn around its courts' poor reputation [Mobile Press-Register]
  • Ignominious end to Eliot Spitzer's crusade against NYSE chief Grasso [WaPo, Ribstein]
  • Since 1958 it has been unlawful to trade futures in onions, and a lesson lies therein about whether speculators are to blame for price volatility [Tabarrok]
  • Illinois businesses manage to stop proposed "Structural Work Act" allowing suits against other contractors on work site to bypass workers' comp; New York said to have only such law [Akin/Madison Record]

Nine years old today - PointOfLaw Forum

My (and Ted's) other blog, Overlawyered, is celebrating its ninth anniversary today. Check out its recent posts on a lawn mower warning case against John Deere, Ted's experience as an objector at the Grand Theft Auto videogame class action settlement, another dubious class action settlement in a Time Warner Cable case, Jim Copland on asbestos screening (and more), and a tangential link between Chicago's Rezko scandal and the politics of Illinois's lawsuit-famed Madison County.

Illinois: A Madison County dissident - PointOfLaw Forum

Belleville, Ill. attorney Tom Keefe believes that big payouts on many locally filed class actions are "utterly ridiculous", that the asbestos docket includes out-of-state cases that "[don't] belong here", and that a few bad-apple lawyers seeking riches have "put themselves first and have destroyed the profession." Not a surprising set of views in themselves, the difference being that Keefe is a successful local personal injury attorney who clearly feels no obligation to march in lockstep with some of his brethren.

Update: Cates loses judicial bid - PointOfLaw Forum

Judy Cates, known to readers of this site for her role in the controversial Publishers Clearing House class action settlement and thereafter for suing a columnist who wrote critically about the pact, yesterday narrowly lost (in the Democratic primary) her bid for a judgeship in southern Illinois. Cates is a former head of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. (Ann Knef, "Wexstten defeats Cates", Madison County Record, Feb. 5; earlier). Bill McClellan, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist sued by Cates and her brother Steven Katz, has written another amusing column on the topic ("For potential Judge Judy, millions have been served", Feb. 1)(cross-posted from Overlawyered).

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