By Kevin Lee 217-528-9604
SPRINGFIELD – Cook County is a “hellish” location to face a lawsuit.
At least that is the contention from a recent report by the Americans Tort Reform Association based in Washington, D.C.
The ATRA report has listed Cook County among this year’s “judicial hellholes,” or court systems that seem to favor plaintiffs over defendants in lawsuits.
The report goes on to say these “unfair systems” are forums where lawyers, especially those from out-of-state, actively seek courts that will rule in their favor.
“Forum shopping” helps account for why Cook County hosts 61 percent of Illinois’ litigation, despite housing 44 percent of the state’s population, said ATRA spokesman Darren McKinney.
“This essentially means a welcome sign for out-of-state plaintiffs represented by out-of-state lawyers suing out-of-state defendants for injuries that took place out-of state,” he said.
McKinney said Cook County could improve by following the example of Madison County in the Metro East area.
In the last decade, dozens of asbestos-related lawsuits have been filed in the Madison County court system in order to obtain favorable rulings.
During that time, opportunistic lawyers in asbestos cases would repeatedly call for a substitute judge until they received a more favorable judge.
That tactic has since been abolished and the rate at which asbestos cases are filed in Madison County is dropping.
In 2008, Madison County improved to the point where ATRA dropped the court system off its Hellhole list.
A statement from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association dismisses the report from ATRA as a “public relations stunt” meant to further corporate interests.
According to a statement from the trial lawyers, ATRA has received funding from a “who’s who” of corporate special interests, including Dow Chemical, Exxon and Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris.
“This ‘report’ is proof that corporate special interests do not like the fact that they cannot always dominate the judicial system in Illinois,” the ILTA statement read.
View the findings yourself at http://www.atra.org/