Illinois has only one “judicial hellhole” this year, as determined by the American Tort Reform Association. It’s Madison County, ranked No. 5 in the nation, where a lot of the big civil cases, asbestos in particular, are from out of state. “There are 207 asbestos cases in Madison County on the docket for this week. Two of them are from residents of Illinois. Last week, there were 181 cases on the docket – these are just asbestos cases on the docket in Madison County – none of the plaintoffs were from Illinois,” said Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League.
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He asserts that cases are filed in Madison County because the judges are plaintiff-friendly. He says lawsuits should not be allowed to be heard in Edwardsville unless the plaintiff lives in the county, the defendant is based in the county, or the incident that gave rise to the litigation occurred in the county.
The association complains this year that plaintiffs’ lawyers are fighting to revive a $10.1 billion tobacco verdict reached in 2003 that was thrown out by the state Supreme Court in 2005. They pushed, unsuccessfully, to remove from the Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who invalidated that verdict.
The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, representing plaintiffs’ lawyers, disputes the whole concept of judicial hellholes. They say it’s a spin campaign by tobacco, oil and insurance companies and other big businesses trying to bring disrepute onto the judicial system, to make it harder for regular people to recover damages if they’re harmed.