Report: Asbestos litigation declines nationwide, slightly in Cook Co., still pervasive in three IL counties

As the number of new asbestos lawsuits declined nationally, activity in Illinois’ three hotbeds for asbestos litigation showed few signs of ebbing in 2017, even though the distribution of filing activity has shifted slightly.

Recently, Washington, D.C.-based consulting group KCIC released an analysis of U.S. asbestos exposure case filings, showing in 2017 total new asbestos exposure-related lawsuits dropped another 7.5 percent compared to 2016, continuing a trend first observed in 2016. That year, asbestos filings dropped about 10 percent nationwide.

All told, in the past three years, asbestos-related lawsuits have dropped by nearly 17 percent nationwide, from 5,336 in 2015 to 4,450 last year.

However, in the three Illinois county court systems accounting for nearly all of the state’s asbestos filings and one-third of all filings in the U.S., asbestos litigation continued on with little abatement.

In Cook County, asbestos filings declined by about 12 percent in 2017 compared to 2015. In all, Cook County courts received 164 new asbestos lawsuits last year, vs. 187 in 2015, KCIC reported. However, when compared to 2016, asbestos filings actually climbed about 15 percent, up from 143 new lawsuits a year earlier.

Madison County’s courts continued to serve as the state’s and the nation’s asbestos litigation capitol, with the courts there taking in 1,128 asbestos exposure lawsuits in 2017. That figure was down slightly from 2016, when 1,303 new lawsuits were initiated, but the 2017 numbers were down a bit from the 1,191 filed two years earlier.

However, any statewide decline from the slight ebbing of activity in Cook and Madison counties was largely erased by a surge of new asbestos litigation in Madison County’s neighbor, St. Clair County, which logged 207 new lawsuits in 2017, an increase of 200 percent from the 69 lawsuits filed in 2016.

In 2015, St. Clair County received 109 new asbestos-related lawsuits.

Across the country, asbestos exposure litigation also remained heavily concentrated in these three and seven other “Top 10” legal jurisdictions, including Baltimore, Md., New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Wayne County, Mich., New Castle, Del., and Kanawha, W.V., according to the KCIC report.

Collectively, Cook, Madison and St. Clair counties and seven jurisdictions outside Illinois accounted for 3,228 new asbestos filings in 2017, or nearly 73 percent of the total filed nationwide, KCIC reported.

“The concentration of asbestos filings in only a few jurisdictions is an ongoing occurrent,” the KCIC report said. “Asbestos plaintiffs reside in all 50 states, yet over 50 percent of total filings are filed in only five jurisdictions. These jurisdictional hubs are targets for ‘litigation tourism.’”

The report noted, in Illinois, plaintiffs residing outside Illinois accounted for at least 60 percent of all asbestos lawsuits filed in 2017.

This article was first published by Cook County Record.

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