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Madison County Asbestos Attorney

Madison County, Illinois Hosts the Most Asbestos Lawsuits in the Nation

One county in Illinois is home to 25% of all asbestos-related cases in the United States. Madison County saw a startling 1,123 cases filed in 2015 alone. The second busiest jurisdiction in the country – Baltimore City, Maryland – saw less than half that number.

While Granite City is the biggest city in Madison County, Edwardsville is the county seat where the courthouse handles this huge caseload.

The majority of these asbestos cases were filed by victims of mesothelioma and lung cancer (or their family members), but many plaintiffs suffered from other diseases as well.

Asbestos Risks in the Area

Madison County and the surrounding area was home to several companies which put workers at risk for occupational asbestos exposure. Granite City became a haven for industry in the mid-1900s with the arrival of Granite City Steel, and other companies like A.O. Smith, Hoyt Metal Company, Monsanto Chemical Company followed. All of these companies were known to have jobsites where employees were exposed to asbestos. Nearby steel companies, aluminum plants, chemical plants, and other metal-producing businesses in the towns of Madison and Alton have also been known to put workers at risk.

So yes, the area does have some history of asbestos use, but that isn’t why plaintiffs are filing suit in Madison County.

Why Are So Many Plaintiffs Filing Here?

Parts of Illinois, like the greater Chicago area, have had a past rife with asbestos use, so litigation there is to be expected. Madison County, however, hasn’t been particularly devastated.

The truth is that many plaintiffs and defendant companies in these asbestos cases have no connection to the state whatsoever. So what’s going on?

First, Illinois laws regarding venue allow for it. A non-resident plaintiff merely has to prove that the defendant company did business within the state. The jurisdiction itself, however, is particularly conducive to filing suit for other reasons.

Faster Court Dates

Many commercial defendants refer to Madison County as a “judicial hellhole.”

In the early 2000s, this jurisdiction actually fast-tracked asbestos cases for the terminally ill. When handling legal matters for plaintiffs faced with an aggressive and fatal cancer like mesothelioma, this is very important to victims and their families who are seeking justice. As the average diagnosis can leave plaintiffs with a year or less to live, if they file in Madison County, their cases can progress from filing to trial in six months.

Other jurisdictions might take several years.

The county’s so-called “rocket docket” has been an attractions for plaintiffs seeking a quick trial date for obvious reasons. The laws are more amenable to those who’d like to see justice served while they’re still alive.

Big Verdicts for Plaintiffs in Rare Trials Tend to Make the News

Despite the record-breaking number of cases that pass through Madison County each year, the majority of claims are settled before trial. The courthouse averages about one asbestos-related trial per year, which is relatively low compared to other hotspots for asbestos cases. However, when the rare case does make it before a jury, this court has been known for handing down stunningly large verdicts in favor of the plaintiff.

In 2003, a jury in Madison County awarded the largest settlement for a single plaintiff in an asbestos case, ever – to the tune of $250 million in damages – for a U.S. Steel worker who was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Two other claimants were awarded $16 million and $34 million in separate asbestos cases prior to 2005 as well.

In 2011, a Madison County Jury awarded $1.5 million in the case of Richard Campbell, another U.S. Steel employee who was exposed to asbestos during his work repairing industrial electrical wire. He died from mesothelioma in 2009 and the court awarded the damages to his wife.

These types of multi-million dollar plaintiff victories have scared corporate defendants from taking these cases to trial in the past.

But the Trends Could be Changing

However, some experts believe the tide is turning for asbestos cases in Madison County as a range of defendant companies are now winning these rare jury trials.

In 2014, a Madison County jury entered a verdict for defendant Crane Co. in a lawsuit filed by the family of a Navy machinist. After working for years repairing parts on WWII destroyers, he developed mesothelioma and died. The plaintiffs accused Crane Co. of supplying the Navy with asbestos-laden gaskets and valves, claiming they should’ve contained a warning. The jury did not agree.

In 2017, another jury ruled in favor of defendant Hennessy Industries Inc. after the plaintiff alleged he was exposed to asbestos and subsequently developed mesothelioma from using the company’s brake grinders. The plaintiff and his wife, a Michigan couple, assert that he was exposed while using the tool during his job as a high school automotive technology teacher. He was the only claimant still alive after filing the original suit in 2013, and he too left the courtroom empty-handed.

The Future of Asbestos Cases in Madison County

Another two corporate defendants received favorable verdicts in asbestos trials in 2007 and 2013. Many experts believe that if more defendant corporations push these asbestos cases to trial and wind up with favorable verdicts like these, the number of cases filed in Madison County could drastically drop. But that means these corporations have to risk jury determinations in a traditionally blue collar, conservative, defendant-averse jurisdiction.

And Madison County isn’t the only county in Illinois that’s handling its fair share of asbestos litigation. In terms of the top courts in the nation for filings of this sort, Cook County ranked 7th on the list for 2014-2015, while St. Clair county ranked 11th.

Still, the reported numbers from the first half of 2016 suggest that Madison County will again claim the top spot for asbestos-related cases. Only time will tell if the judicial climate in Madison County will remain favorable to victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

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