Everyone Comes to Madison–Especially Asbestos Litigants

Welcome to the former “judicial hellhole” of Madison County, Illinois. Like Kanawha County in West Virginia, Madison County is a jurisdiction in which asbestos plaintiffs have traditionally had a better chance of winning their cases against corporate criminals. It is small wonder that so many asbestos suits are filed in this court. Although the courts in Madison County are moving to discourage such “forum shopping,” the law allows anyone from any state to sue anyone or any entity in any other state–provided that at least one of the parties has some connection (however tenuous) to the state in which the case is to be heard. Nonetheless, corporate defendants have been experiencing more success in Madison County, recently receiving five verdicts in their favor. The fight for justice in Madison County continues.

Near the end of January, a local law firm that specializes in asbestos litigation filed suits on behalf of four out-of-state families whose relatives were victims of mesothelioma. Two of the families are from Texas, one is from Ohio, and the fourth is from Georgia–a state where the laws are strongly protective of corporations. These cases are somewhat unique in that there are very few named defendants. Most asbestos cases name anywhere from 40 to well over 100 defendants; the four recently-filed cases name only 10: Atlas Asbestos Company, Bell Asbestos Mines, Bondex International, Foseco, Inc., Georgia-Pacific, John Crane, Inc., Pneumo Abex Corporation, RPM International, RPM Inc., and TH Agriculture and Nutrition.

The exposure of the victims in question took place in a wide variety of settings: one was a telephone operator from the mid-1940s until 1990. Two of the cases involved “secondary exposure,” in which asbestos fibers are carried home on a worker’s clothing or in the hair, causing a family member to contract an asbestos disease. Such secondary exposure has been an issue in a recent case in Washington State and is the center of a lawsuit on behalf of a Tennessee woman who died of mesothelioma at the age of 25. The parties in each of the four cases are seeking compensatory damages in excess of $100,000 plus punitive damages.