Weber would introduce legislation aimed at Madison County asbestos docket

Ann Maher Jan. 19, 2012, 6:27am


State representative candidate Don Weber of Troy said he would introduce legislation to overturn local judicial rules that are unfair to defendants in asbestos lawsuits.

One of the reforms he outlined in a release this week would make judges disclose to non-settling defendants before trial how much has already been paid to an asbestos plaintiff.

Weber, who is running in the Republican primary against incumbent Paul Evans of O'Fallon and Charlie Meier of Okawville in the 108th House District, said this would amend the Illinois Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors Act.

He said the act already provides that a defendant who doesn't settle a case is entitled to credit for any defendant who paid money to a plaintiff prior to trial.

"While such disclosures are common in nearly every other county, the Madison County judges, with the help of plaintiffs' attorneys who generally have contributed generously to a judge's campaign war chest, have written their own unfair rules for asbestos cases," Weber said in a statement.

"These local rules often trump state statutes and case law in Madison County," he said.

Weber is a former Madison County State's Attorney and a former appointed Circuit Judge who lost his election bid in 2006 to Circuit Dave Hylla, a Democrat.

He said he would also introduce legislation that would clarify what evidence is admissible in the defense of a mesothelioma claim.

He said that defendants in Madison County are routinely prohibited from showing that another party is mainly responsible for a plaintiff's injury.

"This prohibition is contrary to Illinois law but is accomplished by rules relating to discovery and local third-party practice rules adopted by the judges after the plaintiff's lawyers approved," Weber said.

He said local rules limit evidence in a case where, for example, a plaintiff may have worked around asbestos every day for over 20 years at his main place of employment, but changed the brakes on his car once at home with an asbestos-containing brake pad.

"Even though the plaintiff's main employer may have already paid millions to a plaintiff, the remaining brake-pad defendant is usually prohibited from showing that evidence to a jury," Weber said.

"I trust juries. I think they are entitled to know such highly relevant facts."

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