The local angle

The Madison County Record Mar. 19, 2006, 8:21am

The Cassens family has been conducting business in the wrong place, at the wrong time. That place is Madison County, and that time would be the past decade or so, to be eventually defined in Metro-East annals by its infamous litigation explosion.

For most of us, the Cassens Companies-- which includes an auto dealership, an auto transporter, and an insurance agency-- represents American entrepreneurship at its most admirable. Such small business owners represent the lifeblood of our economy. Or they make for an appetizing host, depending upon your day job.

To be sure, in 14 of the 19 months we've been publishing The Record, Cassens has had one or more court appearances as a defendant. Success begets target practice, we suppose.

U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan set back the parasitic last week, dismissing the Cassens from a case that originated in Madison County. An employee of Cassens Transport, plaintiff Tim Rosenburg allegedly hurt his back operating an auto delivery trailer. Led by the erstwhile lawyers from the Lakin Law Firm, he then sued the Cassens family (not his employer)-- along with multi-billion dollar automakers General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, and Toyota.

Rosenburg couldn't sue Cassens Transport specifically because of Illinois' Workers' Compensation Law, which already guarantees he'll be made whole for his injuries. But he still wanted to sue somebody-- and the Lakin Firm needed a local angle to do it here, on their home court.

With the goal of going after bigger mega-corporate game, the Cassens family and its other companies became that angle, as they so often are in Madison County. In dismissing them from the case, Judge Reagan saw through this too common ruse. Call it a blow for common sense.

Reagan, despite his surname, is no business-happy conservative. A Clinton appointee nominated for the bench by Illinois' leftist U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, he once served as president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.

We're guessing it wasn't lost on the Judge that there's a distinct difference between manufacturing convenient scapegoats and holding real wrongdoers accountable. In our civil justice system as of late, the former has been crowding out the latter.

Cassens still faces 12 similar "local angle" lawsuits in Madison County Court. May they be dismissed in short order and, hopefully, never concocted again.

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