One southern Illinois county is home to more than a quarter of the country's asbestos-related legal cases this year, several times more than any other county in the country, and that increases business liability costs.
A report by consulting firm KCIC said Illinois' Madison County is responsible for 29 percent of all the legal cases related to asbestos exposure in America in the first six months of 2016, up 10 percent from the same period last year. The county had 1,012 cases filed in 2015 but had already filed 619 asbestos cases by July of this year. New York County came in second, with 184.
"People aren't coming to Madison County because they like the burgers," Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch Executive Director Travis Akin said. "They're coming there because they believe that there's a realistic chance that they're going to have a favorable outcome in their asbestos case."
Akin said the cozy relationship between judges and trial lawyers who donate to their campaigns has created a "rocket docket" for asbestos filings.
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"Money generated from these asbestos cases is then used to leverage campaign donations to judges, and it's become a never-ending cycle,” Akin said.
Akin said this pattern leads to businesses' liability insurance surging in Illinois, as well as the rest of the nation.
The study also noted that Edwardsville, Illinois-based Gori, Julian & Associates filed the most asbestos-related cases by any firm in the country so far this year, with 179 filings. The report said the firm filed 253 mesothelioma cases in Madison County in all of 2015. Mesothelioma cases are included in the asbestos-related filings, as the condition has been linked to asbestos exposure.
Akin said next week is national Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, an effort to get voters to make informed votes on electing common-sense judges who will keep situations like the Metro East's number of nationwide asbestos suits from proliferating in their counties.
KCIC estimated that its study accounts for more than 90 percent of all asbestos-related filings in the United States.
The Illinois Radio Network reports Madison County Chief Circuit Judge David Hylla wasn't immediately available for comment.