Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2004, started out like any other day in Illinois' Madison County Circuit Court. Paul Palmer, a Louisiana man, was suing 87 companies--among them Viacom, Ford and BP--for allegedly causing his mesothelioma, a cancer related to asbestos exposure.
Palmer lived and worked in Louisiana his entire life. His residence was only 15 miles from the Baton Rouge courthouse. His asbestos exposure occurred in Texas and Louisiana, and his doctors were based in Baton Rouge. The only real connection the case had to Madison County was that it was filed there.
Outside observers agree that political contributions play some part in the court's leanings.
"I wouldn't suggest that the judges are doing anything illegal," says Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League. "I'm just suggesting that they have a very cozy relationship with the plaintiffs' bar and tend to rule very much in favor of plaintiffs."