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Illinois courts trend against mesothelioma victims

Last month, we wrote about a mesothelioma verdict that was ultimately overturned in an Illinois appellate court after the judges found that there was no relationship between the plaintiff, who had been awarded more than $2.5 million, and the defendant companies. In the wake of that verdict, appeals have been filed in several other Illinois asbestos verdicts, leading many asbestos lawsuit attorneys and plaintiffs to worry that the state courts may be trending against the victims of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.

The case that was overturned on appeal was filed by a woman who alleged that she had contracted mesothelioma as a result of the asbestos fibers that entered her home on clothing worn by her husband, who worked at Union Rubber & Asbestos Co. in the 1950s. Because that company went out of business several years ago, the woman filed her lawsuit against Pneumo Abex and Honeywell, two other companies in the same "trade group" as Union Rubber.

The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, citing an Illinois state law that allowed for guilt by reason of civil conspiracy. The ruling stated that the defendant companies had acted in "parallel conduct" with Union Rubber, and had thus allowed for continued exposure to asbestos by employees of all companies in the trade group.

The verdict was thrown out by the appellate court, however, when it ruled that the companies could not have committed a civil conspiracy simply because no one knew that asbestos fibers could be carried home on the clothing of workers.

Following the appellate verdict, several similar cases including a $90 million verdict involving Honeywell and Pneumo Abex, have come up for review in Illinois courts. It remains to be seen how the earlier verdict will affect these cases.

Source: Asbestos.net, "Are Illinois Courts Overturning Asbestos Lawsuit Rulings?" August 10, 2011

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