Lame-duck Illinois legislature gives asbestos attorneys, claimants early holiday gift

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


Madison County, Illinois accounts for .08-percent of the nation’s population, but the tiny county just east of the Mississippi River accounts for 25-percent of asbestos lawsuits in the United States.

Demolition Mecklenburg Injury Attorney North Carolina Accident LawyerCritics allege that personal injury attorneys have had “cozy relationships with Madison County judges,” which has turned Illinois into “a haven for frivolous lawsuits.”

The Madison Record has reported that 90-percent of plaintiffs who file asbestos-related lawsuits in Madison County do not live or work in the county. On a recent day, 181 asbestos-related lawsuits were set for trial. Only one of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuits lived in Madison County.

The Record reports that “in one memorable instance,” a judge was given $30,000 in campaign funds by asbestos law firms a few days after the judge gave the firms coveted trial dates for upcoming court sessions.

Personal injury lawyers and their allies stepped up their game during the Illinois legislature’s recent fall “veto session,” a session controlled by a lame-duck legislature taking action on vetoes issued by a lame-duck Governor. Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has promised to make lawsuit reform a top priority when he takes office next year.

Before Rauner took office, however, in the waning hours of the six-day veto session, the lame-duck General Assembly “sneakily rammed through an amendment to an unrelated bill” that eliminated Illinois’ ten-year “statute of repose” for cases involving exposure to asbestos on building sites. The elimination of the “statute of repose” means, in practical terms, that there are no time restrictions on asbestos lawsuits arising from exposure to the substance at construction sites.

This was a big win for personal injury attorneys and their allies, who managed to get the amendment passed during a legislative session intended to deal only with “any veto handed down by the governor.”

Jennifer Hammer, legal counsel of government affairs for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, told the Record that asbestos litigation has already bankrupted some 100 companies and had resulted in the creation of “an asbestos bankruptcy trust system with between $30 and $37 billion reserved for current and future asbestos claimants.”

Lifting the “statute of repose” and allowing claimants who allege asbestos exposure in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s harmed them will “obviously” increase the number of lawsuits. Hammer said the sum total of asbestos litigation claims could ultimately run as high as $250 billion.

Lisa LaConte, a defense attorney at the Heyl Royster firm, said she did not expect to see a spike in new asbestos claims. Instead, she said, plaintiffs would now have an incentive to file claims against architects, engineers and other contractors who employed them on property that contained asbestos products.

LaConte said the overall effect of lifting the “statute of repose”—like the asbestos-related litigation in general—will be to drive businesses out of Illinois and discourage new businesses from settling in the state.

LaConte said it would be costly and difficult for businesses to obtain adequate insurance coverage to protect themselves from liability, in the current climate.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAW Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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