FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

(The Center Square) – A review of public records found Illinois businesses are being wrongfully named as defendants in asbestos lawsuits.

According to the research, the average asbestos lawsuit names 70 defendants, though some cases involved as many as nearly 200 unique defendants. The aggressive pursuit of defendants by trial attorneys drags many innocent companies into the lawsuits, the research found, according to the Illinois Civil Justice League. The inclusion of innocent defendants is known as “over-naming,” according to the group.

“The goal is not to take money out of the hands of any injured plaintiff, it's simply to focus the litigation on the companies that do have potential culpability,” lead researcher and national asbestos litigation expert Mark Behrens said.

Over-naming in Illinois asbestos cases forces innocent companies to cover legal costs they cannot recoup in the court system. The research found that Illinois leads the nation in asbestos filings.

“Money is being wasted that could be spent creating jobs and growing our economy,” said John Pastuovic, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League. “It is very difficult in any economy, but particularly problematic in the wake of COVID-19.”

Pastuovic notes on average 60% of the defendants in the 122 cases studied were dismissed with no payment or finding of liability, and one company was sued 400 times and dismissed in 99% of the cases.

Legislation has been introduced that would require plaintiffs to provide information with the initial complaint detailing the plaintiff's exposure to asbestos and the connection to each named defendant. Further, plaintiffs would have to file and disclose all asbestos trust claims at the outset of an asbestos lawsuit.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.