Cook County, Metro East crack top 5 ‘judicial hellholes’ in U.S.
Illinois courts’ long history of being friendly to plaintiffs and personal injury attorneys showed up again in a reform group’s annual ranking. Cook County, St. Clair County and Madison County together moved up in the rankings of “judicial hellholes.”
Three Illinois counties notorious for plaintiff friendliness collectively ranked No. 5 on the annual report on the nation’s biggest “judicial hellholes,” particularly for asbestos and no-injury litigation.
Cook, Madison and St. Clair counties together were named fifth biggest “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association. The trio jumped three spots from No. 8 last year, with ATRA dubbing them a “magnet” for asbestos and no-injury lawsuits.
The report issued Dec. 7 reads “the Illinois General Assembly is one of the most plaintiff friendly legislatures in the country and Gov. J.B. Pritzker supports a liability-expanding agenda to the detriment of Illinois citizens and small businesses.”
Illinois as a state made the list for “everlasting judicial hellholes.” It has had a jurisdiction named in the Judicial Hellholes report every year since 2002, when the report started.
Asbestos filings were a major factor in the rankings. The report cites an increase in asbestos filings for Madison and St. Clair counties despite an 11% decrease nationwide in asbestos lawsuits.
Asbestos claims in the three counties accounted for 46% of the nation’s total. Madison County, where 31% of nationwide asbestos claims were filed, was No. 1 in the country for claims by a wide margin. The next closest jurisdiction, St. Clair County, had one-third of the filings as neighboring Madison County, which are both in the Metro East adjacent to St. Louis.
Cook County asbestos filings were down 21% in 2020, but it still held its spot as eighth-most popular jurisdiction for asbestos claims.
Biometric Information Privacy Act
The rankings were also because of “no-injury” biometric privacy cases. Passed in 2008, the Act gives legal recourse to a person whose fingerprint, voiceprint, hand or facial scan or similar information is used, sold, or stored without meeting requirements laid out by the law.
Biometric cases skyrocketed after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that plaintiffs don’t have to prove harm to collect damages. As a result, 2019 alone saw twice as many of the cases than the previous decade.
“Class action lawyers are cashing in by targeting businesses of all sizes that use iris scans, fingerprints and facial recognition data,” the report stated Dec 7.
You’ve likely seen these lawyers at home. Spending on TV advertising for legal services has grown by 70% in Illinois during the past five years.
Excessive torts cost Illinois over 140,000 jobs, or $9.57 billion in wages, according to Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. The total costs impose a “tort tax” of $1,049 for each Illinoisan. Money that could’ve been spent hiring new employees or investing in a new venture instead goes to litigation.
This year marks the first “Judicial Hellholes” without former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in legislative power. The report named Madigan the “long-time legislative champion for trial bar,” because of his history of campaign contributions from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association PAC, which has rebuked the Judicial Hellholes reports in the past as biased and based on junk research.
The ATRA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit dedicated to civil justice reform. The stated mission of the Judicial Hellholes report is to identify places “where judges in civil cases systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner.”