Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment on Conspiracy Claims

ILLINOIS — The plaintiff, James Johnson, was diagnosed with asbestosis after working with insulation products in the construction industry, beginning in 1965. He filed suit against numerous defendants, and included a claim that Pneumo Abex LLC, Owens-Illinois, Inc., Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Honeywell International, Inc. were involved in a civil conspiracy to conceal the dangers of asbestos.

The trial court thoroughly reviewed the evidence obtained during discovery and presented at hearings, including the Saranac Study, and determined there was not clear and convincing evidence to demonstrate the existence of an agreement between Pneumo Abex, Owens-Illinois and the other alleged conspirators. Accordingly, the trial court granted those two parties’ summary judgment motions.

On appeal, the Appellate Court of Illinois reviewed the evidence and affirmed the finding that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence that the decision of Pneumo Abex and other companies to remove information regarding studies of mice was invalid and unlawful. Summary judgment was therefore affirmed in favor of Pneumo Abex.

With regard to Owens-Illinois, the appellate court noted that prior courts had determined that Owens-Illinois and Owens Corning Fiberglass had engaged in a conspiracy to conceal the potential dangers of Kaylo insulation, from 1953 to 1958. However, the same court also found that Owens-Illinois withdrew from the conspiracy in 1958 when it sold the Kaylo division to Owens Corning Fiberglass. the plaintiff was not exposed to Kaylo until 1972. Accordingly, the conspiracy had concluded long before and entry of summary judgment in favor of Owens-Illinois was affirmed.