After an apparent recent drop in the number of filings of asbestos cases between 2003 and 2006, asbestos cases are once again on the rise in Madison County, IL. With over 500 cases as of December filed just in 2008, Madison County retains its place as one of the counties with the highest per capita asbestos filing rate in the nation. Several factors seem to contribute to this, including historical and societal aspects. The location of Madison County, near St. Louis, is in a highly industrial area. Asbestos was once a common material used in construction and industry, and it should come as no surprise that more industrial regions see more filings of asbestos cases. Many lawyers have noticed this and moved to the area to help the victims of asbestos diseases to push their cases through the courts before it is too late. The filing system in the Madison County courts makes it easier for those who are dying from asbestos diseases to have their cases put on a fast track through the court system. Some claim that asbestos victims and their lawyers flock to Madison County to file asbestos claims because of the history of large awards going to the plaintiffs. Consequently, many cases are simply settled so that the defendants can avoid the potential to pay extravagant compensations.
Detractors say that the county is not following the letter of the law in the filing proceedings, allowing for mass settlements of cases as well as other misdeeds. Several years ago, Madison County came under the scrutiny of the federal government and the media. Cases temporarily dropped in 2004 when they were being examined on their legal standing to be filed in Madison County court, but since then, the number has slowly been on the rise again. Some of the potential changes in society that could have generated the increase in filings include: better education of the public and lawyers about asbestos so more people recognize the diseases and file for compensation; better medical diagnosis, which links many more diseases to asbestos particles and fibers; and family members developing secondary exposure asbestos diseases. The increased number of cases seems to be taking care of itself in the court system by the majority of cases settling without a jury trial. This saves both parties and the court the time of a trial, and it saves the taxpayers who have to compensate jurists for their service for every trial. By most cases settling, Madison County will continue to be able to handle the ever increasing number of cases.