Articles Posted in Asbestos Litigation

The on-the-job exposure to asbestos experienced by Ronnie Startley occurred in Alabama. Startley was a drywall finisher. However, for 3 to 4 months in 1965, he worked on approximately 50 jobs in Chicago with his cousin, Walter Startley. The Startleys used several brands of drywall joint compound that contained asbestos. Startley was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013; he died a year later in Alabama. The Alabama statute of limitations blocked Startley’s estate’s claims there.

According to Walter Startley’s testimony, during an evidence deposition in the Illinois lawsuit that Ronnie’s estate filed against Welco Manufacturing Co., the manufacturer of Well-Coat, the joint compound they used for Chicago projects in 1965 were “USG, Gold Bond, Best Wall, and Wel-Coat.” He added, “Wel-Coat and Best Wall was the most we used.”

When Walter was asked whether he could recall having more jobs with “one product more than the other,” Walter said, “Well, I really can’t, because that’s a long time ago, but I remember the bags was being like gray-looking stuff and I imagine it would be Wel-Coat or Best Wall.”

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Dennis Seay worked for Daniel Construction Co., which was a contractor for Celanese Corp. From 1971 through 1980, he did maintenance work at the Celanese polyester fiber plant located in Spartanburg, S.C. Seay was exposed to asbestos-containing products while working at Celanese. The different jobs that Seay had included handling various brands of gaskets, packing and insulation manufactured by John Crane Inc. and others for use on and in equipment throughout the Celanese plant.

In 2013, Seay at age 69 was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Seay underwent 3 procedures to reduce the size of his tumor and multiple procedures to drain fluid from his lung, which had collapsed on various occasions. Seay unfortunately died the following year at age 70. He was survived by his wife, two adult sons and one adult daughter.

Seay’s daughter, individually and on behalf of his estate and his wife, sued Celanese Corp. alleging that the company was aware of exposure to asbestos products used throughout the plant but chose not to warn of the dangers or to take other steps to protect workers like Seay. The Seay family contended that Celanese was in complete control of the plant and was responsible for auditing the safety program provided by Seay’s employer to ensure that it was adequate.

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There were eight cases, all involving claims by or on behalf of the estates of now deceased former workers of the defendant Weyerhaeuser Co. The former workers had claimed that their nonoccupational exposure to asbestos was the cause of their injuries and subsequent deaths.

Weyerhaeuser operated a door manufacturing facility in Marshfield, Wis., from 1960 to 2000. It was there that the company manufactured wood products with multiple operations and divisions on that site. The defendant manufactured a door containing asbestos in the plant from 1968 until it stopped using asbestos in 1978.

The evidence in these cases showed that asbestos dust was emitted from the Weyerhaeuser plant. It was also shown that Weyerhaeuser hauled asbestos dust and scrap waste through landfills into the surrounding community. All of the eight plaintiffs in the case were employed by Weyerhaeuser at the Marshfield plant during the relevant time period assigned to varying job duties.

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James Folta was diagnosed with mesothelioma 41 years after he was alleged to have been exposed to asbestos fibers while working for Ferro Engineering.

Because Section 6(c) of the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act bars asbestos claims unless they are filed with the workers’ compensation commission within 25 years of the last on-the-job exposure to asbestos, Folta’s only ground for recovering from Ferro was to argue that the exclusive-remedies provisions in the Workers’ Compensation Act and the occupational diseases statute do not apply on the grounds that his injury was “not compensable.”

The Illinois Supreme Court explained in Meerbrey v. Marshall Field & Co., 139 Ill.2d 455 (1990), that the exclusive-remedy section of the compensation statute does not bar a tort case against an employer if “the employee-plaintiff proves: (1) that the injury was not accidental; (2) that the injury did not arise from his or her employment; (3) that the injury was not received during the course of employment; or (4) that the injury was not compensable under the act.” Meerbrey, 139 Ill.2d at 463, citing Collier v. Wagner Castings, 81 Ill.2d 229 (1980).

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The 4th District of the Illinois Appellate Court in the case of a former railroad employee, James Smith, reversed the jury’s verdict finding that the trial judge had been wrong in preventing the defendant from presenting evidence regarding the plaintiff’s prior work history.

Smith was a former railroad employee of the Illinois Central Railroad who sued it for breach of duty to provide employees with a safe place to work under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.

Smith was exposed to dust as a result of the use of asbestos products at the railroad yard, which included exposure to dust from the neighboring facility that made asbestos insulation. Smith had worked three months at the neighboring asbestos plant before he came to work for Illinois Central Railroad. He left that job because he said it was dirty.

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John Blommer worked as an apprentice carman repairing railroad cars for Great Northern Railway, which was the predecessor to BNSF Railway Co. He started working at the railroad in 1953 and worked for several months before joining the U.S. Army. He returned to the railroad after his military service and then left his employment in 1956 to work at the U.S. Postal Service. In all, Blommer worked for the railroad for a total of nearly 26 months. During that time, he was exposed daily to asbestos from various products he handled. Asbestos was found to be included in pipe wrapping, insulation, raw asbestos fibers and other asbestos-containing products.

In 2010, Blommer, then age 78, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He underwent chemotherapy treatments and talc pleurodesis, which is a procedure in which fluid is drained from the lining of the lungs; then the ribcage and lining are scraped and filled with a talc product to glue the lungs to the ribcage. The purpose is to prevent the fluid from returning. After about two years, the fluid did return and Blommer underwent additional chemotherapy until the treatments were no longer effective.

Blommer sued BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) claiming that the railroad chose not to provide a safe workplace by protecting employees from asbestos exposure.

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Carl Rogers had been working at a tire plant owned by Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., which is a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. subsidiary. He started working at the plant in 1969 and left employment after just one year. He returned to work there in 1975, and he continued working through the mid-1980s. Rogers worked with various tire-building machines but also used asbestos-containing brake assemblies.

He was exposed to asbestos during his ongoing repair and replacement of asbestos pipe installation at the Goodyear plant.

In August 2008, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos. He died the next year at the age of 60 survived by his wife and two adult daughters. His paid medical expenses stipulated at the jury trial were $170,000.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago has reversed the decision of a U.S. District Court judge wherein an agreement between the parties, Hennessy Industries Inc. and National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, required arbitration of any dispute that mandated an interpretation of the agreement. In this case, Hennessy Industries manufactured car parts. Since the 1980s, Hennessy has been the named defendant in many lawsuits for asbestos-related personal-injury cases. Hennessy has been looking to National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh for insurance coverage for these claims. The two companies entered into a cost-sharing agreement in 2008.

When the lawsuits for asbestos-related injuries started coming in, Hennessy requested that National Union indemnify it for settlement and defense costs as provided for in their agreement. The two parties, however, could not come to an agreement as to what was owed. Hennessy demanded arbitration in line with the agreement, which provided for arbitration of disputes between the parties.

Hennessy filed suit in 2013 under 215 ILCS 5/155(1), maintaining that National Union’s delays in granting coverage of the asbestos claims had been vexatious and unreasonable.

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In a case that has been labeled one of first impression, the wife of a victim of mesothelioma has prevailed after the defendant, Tennessee Valley Authority, moved to dismiss the case. The case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Barbara Bobo brought this lawsuit against nine defendants, eight of whom were dismissed pursuant to stipulation for dismissal leaving only her claim against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The plaintiffs were the co-personal representatives of the estate of Barbara Bobo who maintained a variety of claims against the TVA based on her contraction of pleural mesothelioma from washing her husband’s work clothes. It was alleged that the work clothes contained asbestos dust originating from his job duties at TVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Power General Facility in Limestone County, Ala.

In this case, the principle issue was the causation of her contraction of mesothelioma. Before the court was a motion to exclude specific causation opinions of doctors. The motion to exclude the specific causation opinion was found to be moot and the motion to exclude specific causation opinion of another doctor was denied.

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Hennessy Industries was a car part manufacturer. It was sued frequently for asbestos-related personal injury claims. Hennessy sought insurance coverage for these claims from National Union Fire Insurance Co. The companies entered into a cost-sharing agreement in 2008. However, as the lawsuits and claims came in, Hennessy asked National Union to indemnify its settlements and defense costs. To resolve their differences about what was owed, Hennessy demanded arbitration under the agreement. Illinois law would be applied.

Hennessy filed a lawsuit against National Union under the Illinois Insurance Code, 215 ILCS 5/155(1), which provides that, in cases involving vexatious and unreasonable delay, the court may award reasonable attorney fees, other costs, plus an additional amount.

Hennessy claimed that National Union’s delays in providing coverage were vexatious and unreasonable. The federal district court judge in Chicago declined to dismiss the case, acknowledging a provision that “the arbitrator shall not be empowered or have jurisdiction to award punitive damages, fines or penalties,” but held that Hennessy’s claim arose under statutory law rather than under the cost-sharing agreement.

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