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The Quinn Stocking-Stuffers
From the Wall Street Journal of Mon, 22 Dec 2014 19:12:29 EST
Pat Quinn
Pat Quinn Associated Press

Illinois voters booted Governor Pat Quinn in November, but America’s worst Governor isn’t leaving without handing one more windfall to his pals in the plaintiffs bar. Last week he signed a pair of bills passed by the Democratic lame-duck legislature to end the statute of limitations on asbestos lawsuits and cut the number of jurors on civil cases in half.

Previous law required that suits be filed within 10 years of exposure to asbestos. The new law puts no limits on when suits can be filed and does so retroactively. Many asbestos lawsuit are filed against multiple defendants, so look for the hyena pack that is the asbestos bar to target new business targets.

The existing 10-year “statute of repose” hasn’t created a shortage of lawsuits. Madison County in the state is notorious for its jackpot verdicts in civil trials, making it a nationwide destination for civil cases. In 2013 the state saw 1,660 asbestos cases, about 25% of all new asbestos claims in the country.

According to the Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, 99% of the cases currently filed in Madison County had plaintiffs from outside the county and 90% weren’t from Illinois. The vast majority settle, with lawyers getting contingency-fee payments, which means that asbestos suits are the closest thing to a guaranteed income in America’s private economy.

Mr. Quinn’s second parting gift reduced the number of jurors for civil trials to six from 12. The Governor at least has a sense of humor because he tried to justify the measure as a pay raise for jurors, who would get $25 for serving the first day and $50 each day after that. The real pay raise will go to the lawyers, who know that smaller juries tend to issue decisions more quickly and are less likely to deadlock.

The bills are payback to the trial lawyers who finance the state’s Democratic machine. In 2013 the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association PAC made some $422,000 in contributions, overwhelmingly to Democrats. Individual trial lawyers give far more through bundling multiple donations to candidates.

The biggest loser is the Illinois economy, which is already the poorest performing in the Great Lakes region. Making the state a trial-lawyer mecca is another reason—along with its high corporate tax rate and public-union dominance—to locate a business somewhere else. New Governor Bruce Rauner has the hardest political cleanup job in America, and maybe the world.



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