Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Dec. 1, 2014, 6:09am

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (Legal Newsline) – As the end of the year approaches, there are approximately 181 asbestos cases scheduled for trial on Dec. 1 in a single Madison County, Ill., courtroom, with only one claimant residing in the local jurisdiction.

Plaintiff Evelyn Howland of Godfrey, who suffers from mesothelioma, filed her claim in 2011. She represents about one half of one percent of the total number of cases set for trial this week. Howland is represented by the Simmons Hanly Conroy firm in Alton.

Furthermore, it took roughly three years for that Howland to get her case to trial while out-of-state claimants had a much shorter process.

Asbestos defense attorney Kent Plotner of the Heyl Royster law firm explained that a large number of cases set for trial at the end of the year is not unusual.

Throughout the year, numerous asbestos cases with prior trial settings are continued to a later date for several reasons, such as issues with depositions or scheduling. As a result, the number of cases set for trial at the end of the year stacks up.

Plotner added that it appears that a little more than 20 of the 181 cases are set for trial for the first time. The remaining cases have been continued from previous dockets.

Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs, who presides over the Madison County asbestos docket, will be responsible to manage the large number of cases on Monday.

While he agreed the large number of cases is an added burden on parties trying to prepare for trial, Plotner explains that attorneys have already prepared for many of the continued cases – making it easier to handle the larger number of cases on the docket just after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Regardless, Plotner said the county has some work to do on reducing the number of cases set for trial on the asbestos docket.

“We want to limit the number of cases set for any given trial docket. But we are already looking at 2016,” he said.

Last month, defense attorney Brian Huelsmann of HeplerBroom said that as of Oct. 15, 820 first time trial settings and 254 cases continued from the 2014 trial docket have been set for 2015. That makes a total of 1,074 cases set for trial for 2015. There were already 256 first time trial settings for 2016 at the time.

This is all in a jurisdiction in which there are 30 trial dates and 20 judges, only one of whom presides over the asbestos docket.

As for the 181 cases set for trial next week, 15 plaintiffs are Illinois residents outside of Madison County.

Plaintiff Frank Casale of Puerto Rico, who suffers from mesothelioma, would have to travel the farthest to attend a trial. He is represented by the Simmons firm.

The vast majority of the claimants in the cases on docket claim mesothelioma, with five claiming lung cancer and two citing an “asbestos related disease.”

At least 164 of the 181 claimants are represented by the Simmons firm.

Gori Julian & Associates, P.C., represents at least three claimants on the docket.

Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, LLP, has a least three cases.

At least two cases are Manue Raichle Hartley French & Mudd, LLC, cases.

The O’Brien law firm represents at least one claimant.

Complete information on eight of the 181 cases was not immediately available. However, it is known that none of the claimants in those cases are Madison County residents.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at asbestos@legalnewsline.com

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