Thursday, September 6, 2012

Illinois court reverses $17.8M asbestos verdict against Honeywell, Pneumo-Abex and UNARCO

The Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court has reversed a $17.8 million verdict in an asbestos conspiracy case.

It concluded that plaintiff Jayne Menssen did not present sufficient evidence to prove that Honeywell International and Pneumo-Abex conspired with other manufacturers to suppress the serious health hazards of inhaling asbestos.

Her suit sought to damages for the pleural mesothelioma cancer that Menssen alleges she contracted as a result of being exposed to asbestos while working at the Union Asbestos and Rubber Company (UNARCO) in Bloomington.

Menssen worked at UNARCO, a manufacturer and distributor of asbestos and asbestos products, from 1967 to 1969 and claimed that during her time there, she inhaled asbestos fibers manufactured by Abex and Honeywell, among other companies.

Her suit accused Abex, Honeywell and UNARCO of entering into a civil conspiracy by agreeing to suppress information about the effects of asbestos and falsely asserting that exposure to asbestos was safe.

To bolster her conspiracy argument, Menssen presented evidence that Abex allegedly conspired with eight other corporations to conceal information from a study that Dr. LeRoy U. Gardner conducted on the effects of asbestos more than seven decades ago through the use of mice.

Two years after Gardner died, the Saranac Laboratory prepared the final report of Gardner's findings and sent it to Johns-Manville, which supplied asbestos to Abex and was one of the nine corporations that financed the study.

The general counsel of Johns-Manville passed on the draft report to the other financing corporations, the majority of which later met and voted to delete references to cancer and tumors from the final published report.

The Saranac Laboratory in 1951 published the report, which did not include any references to tumors and malignancies in the mice, according to the appellate court opinion.

In February 2010, a McLean County jury returned a verdict in favor of Menssen and against Abex and Honeywell. It awarded Menssen $3.5 million in compensatory damages, $4.37 million in punitive damages against Abex and $10 million against Honeywell for a total verdict of about $17.8 million.

The two companies appealed, alleging numerous deficiencies.


Asbestos and Mold Abatement

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