Judge Daniel J. Stack took over Madison County's giant asbestos docket on September 8, 2004.
In his first forum ruling as chief of the nation's largest asbestos case docket, Judge Daniel J. Stack argued the "astronomical burden" of looming trials demanded he dismiss cases that were not connected directly to Madison County.
In Paul & Lorraine Palmer v. Riley Stoker Corp. et. al., Stack ordered the case moved to a courtroom closer to "where the plaintiff claims (asbestos) exposure."
The Palmers, represented by the asbestos speciality firm Wise & Julian of Alton, live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Responding to the contention of plaintiffs' attorneys Wise & Julian that, while inconvenient for trial, Madison County was indeed convenient for settlement, Judge Stack said the court should always be prepared to go the distance.
Stack pondered how Madison County would hold up if every asbestos lawsuit filed in its courts did go to trial, suggesting that the "cash cow" asbestos docket would quickly overwhelm local taxpayer resources to the expense of plaintiffs.
"It is not the function of the courts to make money," Stack wrote. "This is not a 'business.' It is the function of the courts to administer justice."
"In the case being considered, there is no connection with the county or with this state," Stack wrote in his nine-page order, dated October 4. "The plaintiffs have had no contact with Madison County, Illinois except for the bringing of this lawsuit.
The Palmers filed suit in February 2004, charging asbestos negligence against eighty-seven companies, a list that included familar names like Ford, General Motors, Exxon, Shell, Sears, BP, and Viacom.
Stack's ruling followed a Sept. 15 hearing on joint motions by several defendants to transfer the suit because Madison County was not a convenient location in which to try the case.
"Mr. Palmer worked in Louisiana, lived in Louisiana his entire life and his and Mrs. Palmer's residence is located approximately 15 miles from the courthouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is approximately 700 miles from this court," Stack wrote.
Paul & Lorraine Palmer v. Riley Stoker Corp. et. al.
Babcock Borsig Power Inc.
Bryan Steam corp.
Chicago Bridge & Iron Corp.
Cleaver-Brooks, a division of Aqua-Chem, Inc.
Columbia Boiler Company of Pottstown
Daniel Fluor Illinois, Inc.
Daniel Fluor Services Corp.
Ford Motor company
Foster Wheeler Energy
Fulton Boiler Works
Garlock Sealing Technologies
General Electric Company
General Motors Company
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
Goulds Pumps Incorporated
Howden Buffalo Inc.
IMO Industries Inc.
ITT Industries, Inc.
John Crane, Inc.
Kaiser Gypsum Company Inc.
Kelly-Moore Paint Company
National Automotive Parts Association
Owens Illinois Inc.
Parker Hannifin Corp. (dismissed)
Peerless Heater Company
Philips Electronics North America
Rapid American Corp.
Rheem Manufacturing Co.
Sears Roebuck & Co. (dismissed)
Sterling Fluid Systems USA
TH Agriculture & Nutrition LLc
Union Carbide Corp.
United Gilsonite Laboratories
Vapor Power International
Wabtec Corp./Vapor Power
Welco Manufacturing Company
York International Corporation
Metropolitan Life Insurance
BP Corporation North America
Occidental Chemical Corp.
Shell Oil Company
Dunham Bush, Inc.