Ann Maher and Jessica Karmasek Jun. 29, 2016, 7:38am


Madison County remains the top jurisdiction in the country for asbestos cases, according to 2015 and first quarter data presented at a recent asbestos litigation conference.

Gori
Gori

By comparison, the second busiest jurisdiction in Baltimore City, Md. saw about 45 percent fewer cases than Madison County.

Also included in a list of top 18 courts was neighboring St. Louis which took sixth place, Cook County in eighth and St. Clair County in 10th.

Filings for 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 show Madison County with 1,351 cases; Baltimore with 737; St. Louis with 285; Cook County with 217 and St. Clair County with 115.

Analysis was conducted by KCIC, a consulting firm providing corporate risk management services to policyholders and their legal counsel, as well as Bates White, an economic consulting firm offering analysis and expert testimony services to law firms, Fortune 500 companies and government agencies. Both are based in Washington, D.C.

Their findings show Edwardsville-based Gori Julian with a second place ranking nationally in a list of top 20 plaintiff firms, after the number one national asbestos filer, Baltimore-based Peter Angelos.

Gori Julian has added offices in St. Louis, New Orleans and Los Angeles.

The Alton-based Simmons firm, which merged with New York attorneys to form what is now known as Simmons Hanly Conroy, has offices in five other locations outside Madison County: St. Louis, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and El Segundo, Calif.

Simmons, which has been a national leader in asbestos filings, was fourth place on the list of top 20. Other firms that file in Madison County that appeared on the list were: Maune Raichle of St. Louis in seventh place; SWMK of St. Louis in 10th place; Shrader and Associates in Glen Carbon in 11th place; Flint Law of Edwardsville in 14th place.

Angelos's firm filed 640 cases in 2015, however, data was not available for the firm's first quarter filings.

Madison County asbestos filers and filings:

Gori Julian: 477 in 2015; 70 in first quarter.

Simmons: 371 in 2015; 72 in first quarter.

Maune Raichle: 190 in 2015; 56 in first quarter.

SWMK: 121 in 2015; 27 in first quarter.

Shrader: 107 in 2015; 13 in first quarter.

Flint: 77 in 2015; nine in first quarter.

The data was presented at the Perrin Mid-Atlantic asbestos litigation conference on May 3.

Also presented were the average number of companies targeted in asbestos filings, with many firms suing a triple-digit number of defendants.

According to data compiled by KCIC and Bates White, the top average number of defendants in lawsuits came by way of West Virginia-based Segal Law, with 283. Firm leader Scott Segal is the husband of state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis.

The top 20 list included these Madison County filers:

SWMK: average 112; maximum 263; minimum 13

Gori Julian: average 118; maximum 252; minimum 22

Shrader: average 125; maximum 233; minimum 15

Simmons: average 58; maximum 204; minimum two

O'Brien (St. Louis): average 107; maximum 193; minimum 44

About the data

Elizabeth Hanke, vice president of KCIC, is considered an expert in insurance allocation modeling. According to her bio, she specializes in leveraging relational database technology to solve complex disputes in litigation and settlement.

Hanke said the figures were gathered through KCIC’s claims administration services.

“We have a proprietary online claims management system (Ligado) we use to serve our clients claim management needs,” she said.

“The first step in the process is KCIC accepts service of those complaints on behalf of our clients. Each day we enter the complaints served into a database. Fields we enter include filing date, all defendants named (as they are named on the complaint), disease, claim alleged, plaintiff firms, jurisdiction and whatever claimant personal information is included in the complaint -- typically name, address, birthday, etc.

“This information remains in the complaint database, then the data is pushed out to a client specific database, which notifies each client’s counsel of the new complaint. From that point on, the client and their counsel continue to use the client-specific database to manage the claim.”

Hanke said the data in KCIC’s complaint database is all publicly available data.

“Because of the number of clients we have, our complaint database has a very large percent of all asbestos complaints filed in the U.S.,” she noted.

“While we know we do not have all complaints, based on a few comparisons to known datasets, we estimate we have between 90 and 95 percent of all asbestos filings in the U.S.”

Hanke said KCIC’s dataset grows each day as it continues to process complaints and as it gets new clients.

“It’s a live dataset, so to speak,” she said, adding that it compiled the statistics at its clients’ request.

“As asbestos defendants, they were interested in looking at the filings data sliced a variety of ways,” she explained. “As a practical matter, they typically focus on just the complaints where they are named, but reviewing a bigger data set of where the filings are, who is making them, how many defendants are named, etc., gives them additional insight into the problem they are facing.”

Plaintiffs' strategy

Nina Caroselli, executive vice president and chief operating officer of New Hampshire-based RiverStone Resource, said the system of naming so many defendants is downright puzzling.

“That’s really a question for the plaintiffs firms,” she said of the approach. “But I don’t understand the strategy myself.”

Especially given that some defendants have a dismissal rate as high as 90 percent, she noted.

Caroselli’s RiverStone group manages claims and liabilities for insurance companies. She presented the KCIC and Bates White figures at the Perrin conference.

“From my perspective, asbestos litigation is extremely inefficient,” said Caroselli, an attorney with more than 30 years of experience in the insurance industry and private litigation practice.

Not to mention costly.

“There are costs associated with litigation for both sides,” she said. “From a defense perspective, there’s a cost to retain counsel, respond to discovery, sometimes participate in depositions, file motions to dismiss, etc. All of it has a cost.”

Then factor in nearly 300 defendants named in a single lawsuit.

“You’re not just talking about the attorneys’ time, but the filing fees in various courts, the money paid to experts, court reporters,” Caroselli explained. “All of these costs are incurred in order to get a defendant dismissed from these cases.”

And in the end, naming so many defendants may not be worth it for plaintiffs, she said.

“I think it can extend the time it takes the matter to get resolved,” Caroselli said.

It also, depending on the jurisdiction, can expose plaintiffs to a lengthier deposition.

“When you have that many (defendants) named in litigation and all of them want to be at the plaintiff’s deposition to hear what the plaintiff remembers regarding the product, etc., it can take a lot of time,” she explained.

Caroselli said her group has a number of policyholders that are defendants in asbestos litigation. But many experience dismissal rates of 50 to 90 percent, often being dismissed from cases in which they never should have been named in the first place.

“It really shows how inefficient asbestos litigation is,” she said.

“I’m very interested, and so is my company, in engaging in a conversation with all those involved to see if there’s a different way to manage these claims.”

Caroselli said she has reached out to all sides and is “hopeful” they will find some common ground.

Organizations in this Story

Bates White
Eye St NW
Washington, DC 20005

Madison County
157 N Main
Edwardsville, IL 62025

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