At least 154 new asbestos lawsuits have been filed in Madison County in the first quarter of 2011.

In a review of suits filed between Jan. 1 and March 29, 117 of the cases were mesothelioma claims. There were 30 lung cancer; four asbestosis and one each of pleural plaques, colon cancer and adrenocarcinoma claims.

The Simmons Firm of Alton by far filed the most claims – 77. Gori & Julian of Edwardsville filed 30; the Goldenberg firm of Edwardsville filed 16; Shrader & Associates of Houston filed eight; the Maune firm of South Carolina filed seven; the O'Brien firm of St. Louis filed seven; Saville & Flint of Alton filed five; Bilbrey Law Office of Glen Carbon filed two and the Lanier Law Firm of Houston filed two.

Of the 154 filed, 19 were claims made by Illinois residents; 135 claims were made by non-residents.

In the meantime, Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder is considering recommendations made by both sides of the asbestos bar regarding the allocation of trial dates.

Crowder presides over the largest asbestos docket in the country.

She heard arguments on March 25, among plaintiffs who would retain a calendar providing about 500 trial dates a year, defendants proposing 250 dates, and other defendants opposing both.

At last week's hearing, defense attorney Robert "Barney" Shultz said there are about 2,900 mesothelioma diagnoses in the nation and about 140 in Illinois each year.

He said there were 506 mesothelioma cases filed in Madison County last year.

"It's because there are so many trial dates available," he said.

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