Personal Jurisdiction Challenges Growing in Madison County; May Lead to Fewer Asbestos Filings

ILLINOIS — Continuing a national trend following the Bristol Myers Squibb Co. v. Supreme Court of California (2017) and Daimler AG v. Bauman (2014), the Supreme Court of Illinois has issued a personal jurisdiction opinion that will limit the ability of out-of-state plaintiffs to file suit in Illinois against “non-resident” or foreign defendants.

In the matter of Aspen American Insurance Company v. Interstate Warehousing, Inc., Eastern Fish Company (Eastern) is a New Jersey-based corporation that sources and imports fish products. In 2013, Eastern contracted with …

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Plaintiff’s Issues on Appeal Ruled Non-Prejudicial, Insulation was Not a Substantial Cause

Charles Kirk brought suit against Owens-Illinois and Exxon Mobil alleging that his lung cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos containing material.  From 1954 until 1960 Plaintiff worked aboard navy vessels removing insulation produced by Owens–Illinois, Inc., which he claimed exposed him to asbestos fibers. And for two weeks, he worked as an independent contractor at Exxon Mobil’s  Joliet refinery replacing heaters that Plaintiff claimed were insulated with asbestos. Mobil presented counter-evidence that the insulation at its refinery did not contain asbestos.  Notably, Plaintiff smoked …

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Lung Cancer Case Transferred After Defendants Successfully Argue Forum Non Conveniens on Appeal

Plaintiffs Irvin and Marlene Rohl brought this action against several defendants including Caterpillar and Navistar. The plaintiffs argued that Mr. Rohl’s lung cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos from brakes, gaskets, clutches, engines, and heavy duty equipment made by Caterpillar and Navistar.

At the trial level,  the defendants moved to transfer the case from Cook County to Winnebago County on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The court denied the motion after a finding that the plaintiff had attended trade school in Cook County …

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Compound Manufacturer’s Directed Verdict Reversed

The estate of decedent Ronnie Startley filed a complaint against multiple defendants, including Welco Manufacturing Company, alleging that the defendants’ products caused the decedent to contract mesothelioma. All defendants except Welco either were dismissed or settled with plaintiffs prior to trial. Welco proceeded to trial. After trial, the trial court directed a verdict in favor of Welco, holding that there was not sufficient evidence to create an issue of material fact as to whether the use of Welco’s products caused the decedent to develop mesothelioma. …

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Plaintiffs Presented Sufficient Evidence to Withstand Motion for Directed Verdict

The decedent’s estate filed a claim alleging asbestos exposure caused decedent to develop mesothelioma. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Welco Manufacturing Company because no witnesses could specify how often the decedent used Welco’s products. The plaintiffs appealed, and the appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial.

The decedent’s cousin, Walter, testified that he and the decedent applied joint compound on close to 50 commercial and residential sites for four months in Illinois in 1965. Walter testified they used, among …

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Madison County Jury Renders Defense Verdict for Brake Grinder Manufacturer

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 …

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GE Granted Dismissal on Personal Jurisdiction Grounds While Plaintiff’s Loss of Consortium Claim Remains Against Several Defendants

The plaintiff filed this complaint against multiple defendants asserting claims in negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, and loss of consortium for her decedent’s development of mesothelioma. The decedent was alleged to have been exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy on board the USS Maryland from 1941-46.

Three defendants moved to dismiss the loss of consortium claim. The moving defendants argued that Illinois’ wrongful death act rendered her survival loss of consortium claim as “superfluous.” The plaintiff countered and argued that her loss …

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Court Upholds Verdict in FELA Matter in Face of Limitations Argument But Vacates Damages Award and Remands

In this negligence actions brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), the Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, affirmed the jury’s verdict against defendant Illinois Central Railroad Company (Central) but vacated the award of damages and remanded for a new damages hearing. In 2003, Paul McGowan was diagnosed with lung cancer and died. In December 2008, his estate filed a 13-count complaint seeking damages from various defendants as a result of Mr. McGowan’s lung cancer and death. Count IV of the complaint was for …

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No Harm No Foul in Asbestos Product Liability Action With Physical Injury

In a recent decision out of an Illinois appellate court, it was held that physical injury does not always equate to compensable physical harm. In the case of Sondag v. Pneumo Abex Corp., et al, the plaintiffs, Joseph and Phyllis Sondag, sued various defendants they claimed exposed Joseph Sondag to asbestos, which lead to his developing pleural plaques and interstitial fibrosis. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant Tremco, Inc. manufactured asbestos containing tape that was used by Joseph as a professional plasterer. The case …

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Insulation Found to be Integral to Turbine as Court Grants Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Statute of Repose

The plaintiff brought this action against defendants, including Westinghouse, for Earl Norberg, her decedent’s, alleged development of lung cancer as a result of his work around asbestos containing products while working at the Joliet and Romeoville Power stations.

The plaintiff’s fact witness was Mr. Norberg’s brother, Howard, who recalled that he and the plaintiff worked at Joliet Power Station from 1963-65 and again in the mid-1970s. Specifically, he testified that workers were insulating a turbine at Unit 9 while Units 7 and 8 were being …

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