Madison and St. Clair counties on 'Hellhole' watch list

Ann Knef Dec. 15, 2009, 2:00am

The American Tort Reform Association's 2009 "Judicial Hellholes" report released today places Madison County and St. Clair counties on the group's "watch" list.

In Madison County, the report observes, "The outlook generally remains positive, but there are those in Illinois and elsewhere who are discouraged by recent developments and still consider it a Judicial Hellhole."

Madison County's asbestos docket has been increasing since 2006. This year's new filings already exceed the total number of asbestos cases filed in 2008. And, regarding class action lawsuits, at least one more case has been filed in 2009 than in 2008.

"Reasons to keep a close eye on Madison County persist," the report continues. "Judges interested in reform can only do so much; the lawyers practicing in the local court rooms determine much of the local activity. Madison County remains almost twice as litigious as Cook County and more than four times as litigious as the average of the other 101 Illinois counties."

As for St. Clair County, which is noted less severely as "other areas to watch," the report states, "Madison County's neighbor shares a reputation as inhospitable to corporate defendants, but its standing has improved along with the rest of the Metro East in recent years. Still, it remains a place to watch with some decisions of concern."

Last week, the Record reported there have been three times as many class action lawsuits filed in St. Clair County in 2009 than there were filed in 2008.

Topping the Hellhole list -- a place formally occupied by Madison County -- is South Florida, followed by West Virginia, Cook County, Atlantic County, N.J. and beyond, New Mexico appellate courts and New York City.

The ATRA will hold a news conference later this morning to offer its annual critique of the nation's most unfair civil courts.

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