Keeping up with the Joneses

Travis Akin Feb. 27, 2011, 7:29am


Keeping up with the Joneses appears to be something St. Clair County personal injury lawyers take very seriously.

Neighboring Madison County has become a national destination jurisdiction for asbestos-related cases and the personal injury lawyers filing cases in St. Clair County apparently do not want to be outdone.

A day before his retirement last December, former Circuit Judge Patrick Young accepted four mesothelioma cases from Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Now Fifth District appellate justices are in the process of making a decision on whether or not the cases will remain in St. Clair County.

If the cases are allowed to stay in St. Clair County, Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson will hear the cases now that Young has retired.
Madison County already is a destination jurisdiction for asbestos cases from all across the country. If the Fifth District Appellate Court decides to allow St. Clair County to keep these cases, St. Clair County will be well on its way toward becoming another destination jurisdiction for mesothelioma cases just like Madison County.

Apparently, the Metro-East needs not one but two national asbestos dockets in the region. Instead of trying to duplicate some of the lawsuit reforms and other positive steps being taken in Madison County, neighboring St. Clair County seems to have made the decision to emulate the worst aspects of Madison County's legal environment.

If St. Clair County is going to emulate anything from Madison County, why not emulate Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla's decision to halt a 2010 class action brought against Sears Roebuck and Co. over allegations its washing machines took too long to work and could possibly explode?

In that decision, Judge Hylla determined that because the lawsuit mirrored a federal class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, there was no compelling reason for a separate class action lawsuit in Madison County.

Judge Hylla made the right decision in stopping the class action lawsuit from moving forward in Madison County. But whenever progress is being made to improve the region's legal climate, it seems there is always something else to come up to erase all of the progress.

Judge Hylla's decision clearly is a step in the right direction, but if St. Clair County becomes a national asbestos docket, the region would be taking several steps backward.

Both Madison and St. Clair counties were listed as court jurisdictions to watch in the annual "Judicial Hellholes" report released last December. Enticing more out-of-state cases to the local court jurisdictions in Madison and St. Clair Counties is not exactly the formula to improve the region's standing in the annual Judicial Hellholes report.

Let's hope the Fifth Appellate justices make the right decision and put a stop to St. Clair County's aspirations of becoming a magnet for mesothelioma cases. One national destination for asbestos cases in the region is more than enough.

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