New report shows trouble on the horizon in Metro-East counties

Travis Akin Dec. 20, 2009, 3:59am


With class action lawsuits on the rise in St. Clair County and the number of asbestos claims increasing in Madison County, the release of the 2009 "Judicial Hellholes" report provides a sobering reminder of how far the lawsuit reform movement has come, but also how much more work still needs to be done.

Certainly there have been improvements in the litigation climate in the Metro-East, but there are clear signs of new trouble on the horizon. The 2009 Judicial Hellholes report, issued by the American Tort Reform Association, notes that, "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."

It appears Madison and St. Clair counties are slowly but surely edging their way back into the judicial "Hall of Shame."

For instance, one case working its way through the Madison County courts is a lawsuit against Microsoft Corporation. The lawsuit originates from a claim that an individual's Xbox video game console scratches game discs. A Seattle federal judge derided this case and dismissed it. But the case now has new life in Madison County.

So what other court jurisdictions regard as a ridiculous money grab, Madison County sees as a legitimate claim. Clearly not all is well in Madison County.

In neighboring St. Clair County, the number of class action lawsuits has tripled, jumping from four filed in 2008 to twelve filed in 2009 – so far.

If these trends continue, Madison and St. Clair counties will find their way back onto the Judicial Hellholes list. At a time when jobs are at a premium, the last thing we need is to once again find these two counties joining Cook County as the nation's worst Judicial Hellholes.

It is bad enough that Cook County continues to be one of the worst court jurisdictions in the country. But to return to the days when Illinois had three of the worst Judicial Hellholes is not a place we want to be.

The unemployment rate in Illinois stands at 11 percent – nearly one point higher than the national average. The combination of political corruption, high taxes and an unfair legal climate has created the perfect storm for job loss. Companies look to create jobs in places where the legal system is fair. Rest assured employers are watching what is happening in Madison and St. Clair counties and they cannot like what they are seeing right now.

The message we need to take from the 2009 Judicial Hellholes report is that Madison and St. Clair counties, like a bad 80s hair band, are poised for a reunion tour on the Hellholes list. At a time when our economy is in shambles, we can ill afford for these two counties to re-emerge as the nation's worst Judicial Hellholes.

It is up to us to stop the slide back into the depths of a Judicial Hellhole. Now more than ever, we need our judges and political leaders to say "no" to lawsuit abuse. The electorate in the upcoming 2010 elections should demand nothing less.

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