Asbestos filings have steadily increased in Madison over the last three years, with new cases filed so far in 2009 exceeding the 2008 annual total. As of this month, 656 new asbestos cases have been filed in Madison, versus the 2008 year-end total of 639.Two-and-a-half mil per settlement? Cough, cough. Hello, Brown & Crouppen?
That's much less than the 2003 peak of 953 filings, but Madison still claims one of the hottest asbestos dockets in the country and seems hellbent on reliving its inglorious recent past.
It's not just friendly and obliging jurors that attract plaintiffs' attorneys to the Edwardsville courthouse. No, it's also a special incentive-to-settle that former Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron added to the "Asbestos Welcome Wagon" five years ago.
Byron issued a standing order in 2004, allowing asbestos attorneys to set trial dates more than a year and a half in advance. Trial dates, as both plaintiffs' and defense attorneys know, prompt settlements - even in thin cases.
Average settlements approach $2.5 million -- a tidy sum for which plaintiffs' attorneys can thank Byron. The rest of us can thank him for helping to perpetuate our reputation as a hellhole.