Madison County still ranks high in litigation, report finds

Amelia Flood May 6, 2009, 11:41am

A new report finds that Madison County ranks behind only Cook County for litigation filings statewide, even though it has about a twentieth of the population.

The report was produced by the Illinois Civil Justice League and presented during testimony May 5 before a joint Illinois Senate and House Judiciary Committee.

The report "Litigation Imbalance II" comes as three civil justice reform bills sit in committees in Springfield. The ICJL has studied litigation trends in Illinois counties before, with a previous report that examined trends from 1994 to 2003. The data the report analyzed was taken from the state Supreme Court's Caseload and Statistical Records.

This latest report indicates that Cook County had the highest number of filings, topping 101 other counties statewide. Madison County, with a much smaller population, was a close runner-up and actually beat out Cook County in terms of number of lawsuits per thousand residents.

Madison County had about eight lawsuits per thousand residents. Cook County had about four.

Madison County's number of lawsuits per thousand residents was nearly four times as many as those found in most other parts of the state, according to the report.

The report also looked at the dockets of the appeals courts and circuit courts. Filings in the Madison County Circuit Court made up 47 percent of the Fifth District's caseload, more than 35 other counties within the Fifth District combined.

St. Clair County made up the next largest part of the district's load at 19 percent. Madison County has twice as much litigation as it does population, based on that percentage, according to the report.

Asbestos litigation is once again on the rise in Madison County, as noted in the report. In 2003, the county set its high mark of 939 asbestos cases filed. The number dropped to just over 300 in 2006. However, the number of asbestos cases climbed to 639 asbestos cases last year. The number of asbestos suits filed in Madison County was greater that year than non-asbestos suits.

In its conclusions, the ICJL's report cites what it perceives as "disturbing" trends in how plaintiffs in asbestos suits establish a connection to Madison County and in the amount of cases being filed.

The 10-page report was used as members of the group testified about venue, expert witness and jury reform bills Tuesday.

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