More Evidence that Madison County Is a Judicial Hellhole
Lest anyone think that its largest-in-the-nation asbestos docket is the only thing that qualifies largely rural Madison County, Illinois as a full-blown Judicial Hellhole, here’s some additional evidence:
As reported by the Madison Record, a recent $1.25 million verdict for the plaintiffs — the daughter and brother of a man killed by a train at a railroad crossing on private property in Missouri — was thrown out by an appellate court that remanded the case for retrial.
According to the appellate court order, Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian “abused [his] discretion when [he] permitted the plaintiffs’ expert to refer to and to rely upon certain industry safety standards, regulations, and statutes to support their opinions on the Railroad’s standard of care, but prohibited the defendant railroad from presenting evidence and argument to show that the standards, regulations, and statutes were intended to address safety issues at public railroad crossings and were not binding at private crossings.”
When defendant Union Pacific’s lawyers tried during trial to introduce evidence that delineated between private and public railroad crossings, Judge Matoesian dismissively quipped, “A crossing is a crossing.”
Beyond his plaintiff-friendly willingness to dismiss out of hand the relevant law and regulations that govern railroad crossings, Judge Matoesian also ruled the defense could not introduce medical or police evidence indicating that both the deceased and his surviving plaintiff brother, who just happened to be driving the vehicle when it was struck by the train, were under the influence. The driving brother had the street drug “ecstasy” in his system, and the deceased had a .135 blood-alcohol level. But why confuse jurors with inconvenient facts that might help a defendant get a fair shake?
The Madison Record story details other stupefying evidentiary and procedural moves made by Judge Matoesian, all of which helped rig the original trial in the plaintiffs’ favor but none of which were additionally faulted by the appellate court in its reversal. That doesn’t say too much for Illinois’ Fifth District Appellate Court, but at least the defendant will get another chance to make its case with a fresh jury. Meanwhile, Judge Matoesian’s conduct of Webb v. Union Pacific Railroad Company is all too typical of the raw deals defendants too frequently get in Madison County. Such blatant scale-tipping is what convinces out-of-state plaintiffs from all across the country to get their tickets punched for Illinois’ “Madison County Express.”