Asbestos defendant seeks to move St. Clair Co. suit to Florida where exposure occurred

By The Madison County Record | Oct 16, 2014

Asbestos defendant AERCO International wants to send a Florida couple’s suit from St. Clair County to their home court, where the docket carries far fewer cases.

AERCO found that in 2012, plaintiffs filed a civil case in St. Clair County for every 19 residents, while plaintiffs filed a civil case in St. John’s County, Florida, for every 83 residents.

“Given this clear disparity, it would be unjust to add this matter to the already crowded St. Clair County docket because the plaintiffs are not residents of St. Clair County and the injury at hand did not occur in St. Clair County,” Matthew Vlasman of Chicago wrote on Sept. 25.

Plaintiffs across the nation have filed dozens of asbestos suits in St. Clair County last year and this year, and defendants have challenged jurisdiction in most cases.

AERCO’s challenge to a suit from John and Anna Chard added a comparison of court congestion to arguments that other defendants have advanced.

Vlasman wrote that John Chard never lived or worked within 200 miles of St. Clair County.

He wrote that all of Chard’s medical providers are in Florida.

“Outside of boarding a destroyer in Chicago in the mid 50s, Mr. Chard does not allege that he ever worked anywhere in the state of Illinois during his military or civilian career, let alone anywhere near St. Clair County,” Vlasman wrote.

“Rather, all of Mr. Chard’s civilian career and most of his naval service occurred at, or was based out of, locations in and near St. John’s County, Florida.

“Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that John Chard was exposed to asbestos while performing home remodeling work at his residence in St. Augustine, St. John’s County, Florida.

“Thus, nearly all the alleged exposure in this case took place in and around St. John’s County, Florida, and none occurred anywhere near St. Clair County.

“The trial docket for asbestos cases is much more congested in St. Clair County, where hundreds of cases are set for trial in 2014.

“The St. Clair County docket continues to be crowded to the point where congestion is of great concern.

“In fact, there were a total of 14,413 civil cases filed in the St. Clair County circuit court in the 2012 fiscal year, as compared to 2,541 civil cases filed in the St. John’s district court during the same time period.”

He quoted Census Bureau population estimates of 266,955 in St. Clair County and 209,647 in St. John’s County.

“To put these numbers in perspective, there is approximately one civil case filed per 19 persons in St. Clair County as compared to approximately one civil case per 83 persons in St. John’s County,” Vlasman wrote.

He wrote that trial in St. Clair County would unduly burden the citizens and the court.

“The courts have a responsibility to protect finite judicial resources and the efficient functioning of their judicial system so that they are not impeded by nonresident litigation to the extent that their availability to local citizens is diminished,” he wrote.

He wrote that Illinois courts do not condone forum shopping.

With many defendants challenging jurisdiction in each case, hundreds of motions await a decision from circuit judge Vincent Lopinot.

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