Expectation met: Chamber counted on Gridley decision

Steve Korris Nov. 25, 2005, 6:00am

Attorney John Aldock of Washington, who argued for dismissal of a Madison County class action suit against State Farm Insurance on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says he expected the Court's decision to dismiss the suit.

"I thought that the Illinois Supreme Court would get it right," Aldock said in an interview on the Court's Nov. 17 decision in Gridley vs. State Farm.

Aldock wrote a brief three years ago in which the Chamber, as a friend of the court, argued that Madison County judges had harmed the state by allowing residents of other states to sue in their courts.

Gridley, a Louisiana resident, sued State Farm in Madison County in 2000. State Farm moved for transfer to Louisiana, and Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis denied the motion.

State Farm took the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in State Farm's favor.

"We thought that when the Supreme Court looked at what was going on in the lower courts, they would not be happy and they would take action," Aldock said.

"The case was sitting there for years. It may have sat there longer than any case ever. Who knows?"

In his brief, Aldock declared that the Chamber "believes that the courts of Madison County, Illinois, are allowing this state's judicial process to be abused by out-of-state claimants, resulting in a litigation industry that is damaging this state's reputation and business climate."

He wrote that neither the circuit court of Madison County nor the Fifth District Appellate Court treated the doctrine of forum non conveniens seriously.

Aldock described Madison County as "an exceptionally pro-plaintiff forum, which offers substantially better chances of success and higher verdicts than litigation in a plaintiff's home forum."

He called it "a place where frivolous lawsuits, aided by receptive trial and intermediate appellate courts, result in a massive transfer of wealth largely unrelated to the merit of the underlying claims."

In an argument that the Supreme Court would adopt almost word for word, Aldock wrote that Gridley was a resident of Louisiana, alleging a wrong in Louisiana over a car he registered in Louisiana, with witnesses and evidence almost entirely in Louisiana.

He criticized a Fifth District order remanding the case to Kardis for further discovery, calling it abusive

"The irony of this result is arresting: the very need for extensive discovery in order to determine whether there is any thread, however, gossamer, between the lawsuit and the State of Illinois is itself powerful evidence that the forum is not convenient, and that the lawsuit belongs in Louisiana," he wrote.

Aldock practices at Goodwin Procter. The firm continues to represent the Chamber of Commerce.

The Madison County Record is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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