Madison County's already swelled asbestos docket has packed on more cases at this year's mid point than it had at the same time last year.
As of June 30, 421 asbestos cases have been filed in Madison County, according to figures released by Madison County Circuit Clerk's Office Thursday. That's up 29 cases from the same point last year.
Madison County has one of the most active asbestos dockets in the nation. Filings are also beginning to pick up in St. Clair County, where 25 asbestos cases have been filed so far this year.
In prior interviews with The Record, Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, the current asbestos judge, has indicated that the current batch of asbestos filings stem from so-called secondary exposures.
Secondary exposure claims arise from people who allege they have developed asbestos-related illnesses although they had not had direct exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing products.
He has predicted in the past that asbestos case filings will peak within the next two decades and then gradually decline.
Meanwhile, Stack has been working with Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder to prepare her to take over his role overseeing the asbestos docket.
Crowder was selected to replace Stack due to his impending retirement from the bench.
Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis announced Crowder's new role at the beginning of the year.
Since then, Crowder has been familiarizing herself with asbestos law, complex litigation and other topics to prepare, she has previously said in interviews.
Crowder has also taken to overseeing the daily routine of the asbestos docket including hearing packed motion calls and overseeing trials.
Madison County has already seen one asbestos case go to a jury this year.
That suit, brought by plaintiffs Meta and Larry Williams, was presided over by Crowder.
The verdict went to defendant Ford Motor Company March 12.
The Williamses claimed that Larry Williams' mesothelioma was caused by asbestos released in brake dust that he had worked on beginning in the late 1960s.
The trial lasted over a week.
Attorneys for the Williamses had asked for more than $14 million in damages.
Ford's lead attorney, Manuel Sanchez of Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman of Chicago, praised both the jury and Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder following the verdict.
"It's a new day in Madison County for corporate America," Sanchez said following the victory, while lead plaintiffs' counsel Jonathan Ruckdeschel of the Ruckdeschel Law Firm of Maryland expressed his disappointment on his clients' behalf.
Crowder nearly had a second asbestos case begin trial last week.
Working with attorneys and with Madison County Associate Judge Clarence Harrison II assisting, the cases set for trial settled.
Stack plans to continue on the bench until the end of his current term in November.
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