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The Associated Press State & Local Wire

Study finds Madison County has most class action suits per capita
September 11, 2001

A conservative think tank found that in the last two years, Madison County has filed more class action lawsuits per capita than any other county in the United States.

According to the study released Monday by the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute in Indianapolis, Madison County had 16 class actions in 1999, 39 suits in 2000 and another 39 already this year. Fifty-six cases are projected to be filed by the end of the year. "Clearly, something is drawing plaintiffs' counsel to this court," the report states.

Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian, who is acting chief judge this week while Circuit Judge P.J. O'Neill is out of town, said it would be improper for him or any other judge to comment on the study.

The report, written by class-action defense attorney John Beisner, says that Madison County is a perfect example of why such cases should be tried in federal court.

The report concludes that the county has been asked "to set national policy on issues that could affect the daily lives of millions of Americans throughout the country—from what water they drink to how much they pay for their next insurance policy or telephone bill—all from a small courthouse in southwest Illinois."

Judy Pendell, director of the Center For Legal Policy, said it makes more sense for cases that affect consumers nationwide to be handled in federal courts.

"The judges in federal courts are skilled at applying the laws of many states," she said. The report also noted that only a few of the defendants in Madison County's class actions are Illinois companies.

Mark C. Goldenberg, whose firm, Hopkins Goldenberg, has filed several class-action suits in Madison County Circuit Court, acknowledged that Madison is a "working man's community" and that bias could come into play in a jury.

But all of the class-action suits he has been involved in, he said, have been settled before going to trial.

"I don't think our judges have shown anything in the class-action area other than they work hard and try to be impartial," he said. "I haven't seen any bias ... It's not a county that's biased toward plaintiffs, but it's a recognition by the defendants that they don't want to try their case in a courtroom."

©2001 Associated Press


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