Travis Akin Dec. 13, 2012, 4:15am
Lawsuit abuse is getting worse in Madison County. That’s the sobering conclusion from the recently released “Judicial Hellholes” report.
Following a four-year absence from the annual “Judicial Hellhole” rankings, Madison County returned to the rankings last year, slotting in as the nation’s fifth-worst “judicial hellhole” but this year the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) named Madison County the third-worst “judicial hellhole” in the country.
According to the “Judicial Hellholes” report,” Madison County has become “America’s Asbestos Court.” Madison County comprises .0008 percent of the nation’s population but handles more than 25 percent of nation’s asbestos cases. And statistics show the problem is getting worse: In 2006, asbestos filings in Madison County reached a low point of 325. Since then, the number of asbestos filings has increased each year to 455 in 2007, 639 in 2008, 814 in 2009, 840 in 2010 and 953 in 2011, with the total expected to top 1,000 cases in 2012.
Additionally, only about 1 in 10 of Madison County’s asbestos cases are filed by people who actually live or work there or have any other connection to the area, according to ATRF’s report.
Being known as one of the worst judicial hellholes in the country is hampering job growth in the region. The Metro-East had 1,300 fewer jobs in October 2012 than in October 2011.
One way to attract new jobs to the Metro East would be to improve the legal climate. According to a study conducted last year (Creating Conditions for Economic Growth: The Role of the Legal Environment, compiled for the Institute for Legal Reform by NERA Economic Consulting in 2011), improving Illinois’s legal climate could add between 54,000 and 147,000 and save Illinois residents up to $2.4 billion in lawsuit costs.
But instead of improving the legal climate and attracting jobs, the Metro East continues to be a magnet for lawsuits. Lawsuit tourists come here and file their junk lawsuits and make it more difficult to get our economy back on track. Instead of inching toward the top of the ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list, Madison County needs to finally put an end to its reputation as a magnet for lawsuit abuse.
Businesses look to move to places where the legal system is fair, so having the nation’s third-most unfair lawsuit climate in the country is clearly keeping businesses and the jobs they bring from moving to Madison County. We have a broken court system in Madison County that is creating lawsuits, not jobs. Judges here need to take steps to restore fairness and common sense to our courts so we can begin to create jobs, not lawsuits.
For more information on the “Judicial Hellholes” report and I-LAW’s efforts to restore common sense and fairness to Metro-East courts, visit I-LAW’s website atwww.ILLawsuitAbuseWatch.org.