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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.--In a unanimous ruling that overturns the decisions of two lower courts, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that most mass tort personal injury cases should not be litigated as class actions.
In its 6-0 ruling on Thursday, the court rejected the trend of certifying classes in personal injury cases and instead sided with the reasoning of the Texas Supreme Court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in rulings rendered earlier this decade.
The Illinois court determined that class actions are inappropriate when the nature and extent of plaintiffs' individual injuries--rather than questions of liability for a catastrophic incident--dominate the case.
The court issued its decision in Smith et al. vs. Illinois Central Railroad Co. In the case, 11 residents of Tamaroa, Ill., sued the railroad after they were exposed to dangerous chemicals in the aftermath of a February 2003 freight train derailment in the Southern Illinois community. Among other things, the plaintiffs sought damages for current and future health maladies resulting from their exposure to the chemical spill.