Shop 'til we drop

by The Madison County Record |
Sep. 18, 2005, 4:23pm

We live in Illinois but when we ski, we always head to Colorado. Real mountains. Great resorts. Better powder.

Dan Arnold lives in Colorado. We don’t know if he skis. But when Dan wants to sue someone, he does so in Illinois. He files his lawsuits in Edwardsville.

Last week, Arnold sued 91 different companies in Madison County Court, charging they are responsible for subjecting him to benzene fumes that-- he believes-- caused his leukemia. The defendants are mostly multinational household names who do business anywhere and everywhere, including Dow Chemical, Honeywell, Union Carbide, and U.S. Steel.

Arnold’s rationale for filing lawsuits in the Metro East rather than closer to home is that he worked for a time in Illinois—at a truck stop and on a pipeline in Morris, an oil refinery in Joliet, and as a delivery man and engineer in Pontiac. That’s when—he surmises—he inhaled the benzene he thinks made him sick.

Illinois geography buffs will note that Morris, Joliet, and Pontiac are nowhere near Madison County. They’re actually the seats of Grundy, Will, and Livingston Counties, respectively, two hundred or so miles northeast of here.

The matter of Dan Arnold—- Colorado man sues multinational corporations in Madison County, Illinois—- offers merely the most recent example of the kind of exploitative venue shopping that has given our courts a bad name.

Guided by his lawyers at that East Alton toxic tort lawsuit manufacturing plant we call SimmonsCooper, Arnold didn’t just move his case to Illinois, he moved it within Illinois. Why Madison County over Grundy, Will, or Livingston Counties, those locales where, he says, he was exposed to benzene fumes?

Arnold says he made deliveries here from time-to-time in Wood River and Hartford. That’s his local connection; that’s why he wants to use our courts.

We don’t expect Arnold’s lawyers—- Ted Gianaris and Timothy Thompson—- to say why they really filed his lawsuits here and not there. We won’t get them to admit why they chose the site of random deliveries over the scene of the “crime.”

But we can opine that for these guys, cases like Arnold’s aren’t likely worth pursuing if they aren’t filed in the Third Circuit Court.

Making such an outlandish claim as Arnold’s case does, suing dozens of companies with deep pockets just because, wouldn’t go over as well in Morris, Joliet, or Pontiac. And in a place less notorious than here, getting defendants to settle rather than press their luck would be a threat with fewer, if any, teeth.

State lawmakers need to do what it takes to stop plaintiffs like Dan Arnold from bringing their cases to Illinois with the sole purpose of venue shopping.

It may not be blessed with the stunning natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain state, but Illinois offers plenty to see and do. We don’t need lawsuits as an added tourist attraction.

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