Calling all carpetbaggers

The Madison County Record Oct. 30, 2005, 3:19pm

Asbestos lawyers like Neil Maune should be on notice— Madison County Judge Dan Stack means what he says.

For those of you not listening, Stack has reiterated a mantra he first introduced to the Third Circuit last fall: that Madison County will no longer be a dumping ground for out-of-state asbestos lawsuits.

Stack dismissed a lawsuit by Maune, of St. Louis, on behalf of a New Jersey plaintiff whose husband died with asbestos cancer. You cannot say he wasn’t forewarned.

In an October 2004 opinion, his first after taking over the nation’s largest asbestos docket, Judge Stack dismissed three lawsuits by Louisiana plaintiffs. One of them, he explained, lived “15 miles from the courthouse in Baton Rouge, and.. approximately 700 miles from this court.”

Traveling the extra miles, Stack reasoned, made no practical sense. Moreover, he said, allowing thousands of plaintiffs from all points to file in our courthouse made no economic sense. If all of them were to go to trial, local taxpayers would really have a problem.

Meanwhile, lawyer Maune, based in St. Louis, either wasn’t paying attention or didn’t catch Stack’s drift.

Maune persisted with his asbestos lawsuit on behalf of Irmagard Berndt, a resident of New Brunswick, some 918 miles from Edwardsville.

After Stack sent them packing, Maune pleaded that a dismissal would delay justice for his plaintiff—- in her eighties and seeking $300,000+ in damages—- by a year and a half at least.

“The fact that this plaintiff chose to risk it in hopes of settling prior to trial does not change any of the other factors and cannot be asserted against the defendants,” Stack responded.

In other words, lawyers who use Madison County’s pro-plaintiff reputation as a bargaining chip to get defendants to settle do so at their own risk.

Or as you make your lawsuit bed, lie in it. Around these parts, its about time.

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