Illinois Appellate Court Reverses $3.2 Million Jury Verdict in Asbestos Case

The Illinois Appellate Court for the Fourth District has overturned a $3.2 million jury verdict against a manufacturer in an asbestos death case. The appeals panel found that there was not enough evidence to show that a glazier’s contact with caulk and tape was a substantial factor in Willard Krumwiede’s fatal contraction of mesothelioma.

Krumwiede worked as a window glazier, installing glass into wood or aluminum frames from the mid-1950s until he retired in the early 1990s.

Krumwiede died at the age of 81 in September 2012. An autopsy showed that he had “malignant mesothelioma consistent with industrial exposure of asbestos.”

The Krumwiede family sued the defendant Tremco Inc. in McLean County, Illinois Circuit Court in April 2013 claiming that Krumwiede contracted mesothelioma by coming into contact with Tremco’s caulk and tape, which allegedly contained asbestos.

After a two-week trial, a jury signed a verdict for more than $5 million in favor of the Krumwiede family. However, the amount was later reduced to $3.2 million.

In March 2018, Tremco asked the circuit court judge to overturn the verdict, arguing that the plaintiffs did not show the products released breathable asbestos fibers.

The circuit court judge denied Tremco’s motion, which contended that the plaintiffs did not present to the jurors the evidence that showed Krumwiede’s exposure to the products was a substantial factor in causing his mesothelioma and eventual death.

On Jan. 21, 2020, the appeals panel issued its opinion, stating that while there was sufficient evidence to show Tremco’s products were capable of releasing asbestos fibers, evidence was not presented as to when, and under what circumstances Krumwiede would have been exposed.

“We agree that the records show decedent worked in close proximity with Tremco’s products on a regular and frequent basis.  However, it does not necessarily follow from such evidence that he also had frequent, regular and proximate contact with respirable asbestos fibers from those products.”

Justice Thomas M. Harris wrote that it would be “speculative and conjectural” to conclude from the evidence presented that the breathable asbestos fibers were released from Tremco’s “products with any frequencies or regularity” at the time of Krumwiede’s employment.

The Krumwiede attorneys argued on appeal that they were not required to quantify the number of asbestos fibers Krumwiede was exposed to. While the panel agreed with that statement, it noted plaintiffs needed to show there was more than a minimal exposure to the asbestos. The opinion of the court was unanimous in reversing the jury’s verdict.

Krumwiede, et al. v. Tremco, Inc., 2020 IL App (4th) 180434, Jan. 21, 2020.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury lawsuits, wrongful death cases, mesothelioma and asbestos exposure lawsuits, product liability cases, automotive defect lawsuits and car accident lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Niles, Morton Grove, West Dundee, St. Charles, Geneva, Crystal Lake, Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Blue Island, South Holland, Oak Lawn, Frankfort, Matteson, Chicago Heights, Plainfield, Wheaton, Hoffman Estates, Winthrop Harbor, Round Lake Beach, Libertyville, Chicago (Rogers Park, Albany Park, Logan Square, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Old Town, River North, West Town, Humboldt Park, Belmont Cragin, Portage Park, East Garfield Park, Fuller Park, Woodlawn, Kenwood, South Shore, Avalon Park, Calumet Heights, Washington Heights, Beverly), Evergreen Park, Burbank, Bedford Park, Justice, Willow Springs, LaGrange and Cicero, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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