Madison County Jury Renders Defense Verdict for Brake Grinder Manufacturer

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Plaintiffs Stan and Janet Urban, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, filed a lawsuit in Madison County, Illinois in March 2013. The plaintiffs alleged Mr. Urban developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from using Ammco brake grinders while employed as a high school auto technology teacher. Defendant Hennessy Industries was the last remaining defendant at trial. Ammco is Hennessy’s predecessor. The jury disagreed with the plaintiffs’ request for $10 million, and rendered a verdict in favor of Hennessy.

The plaintiffs argued that Hennessy had the power to test its products, recall its machines, issue a retrofit or replacement part, and had the power to warn. The plaintiffs also argued Ammco never tested asbestos exposure from grinding brakes for cancer, and only tested it for asbestosis. The plaintiffs accused Hennessy of gross negligence. Counsel criticized defense experts Dr. Dennis Bridge, Dr. Michael Graham, and Mr. Craig Mountz.

Hennessy argued that Mr. Urban’s exposures using Hennessy’s brake grinder amounted to a maximum of 12 total days of grinding in the nine years he worked for Center Line High School, over a 30 year career with brake grinders. Hennessy relied upon the bare metal defense in arguing that the grinder itself did not contain asbestos. Hennessy highlighted inconsistencies in Mr. Urban’s testimony, and noted that Mr. Urban likely used the wrong bag for dust collection from the grinder. In closing, counsel argued that “If Mother Theresa was on trial, Mr. Hart (plaintiff’s counsel) would find some way to call her grossly negligent.”

Nearly every asbestos case that has gone to trial in Madison County in the past decade has ended in a defense verdict.