Last month, an Illinois appellate court ruled that there was no relationship between a defendant company and the wife of one of its employees sufficient to justify a $2 million damages award for asbestos exposure. In overturning the verdict, the court cited a similar ruling from Illinois’ Second District, while choosing to overlook a conflicting opinion from the Fifth District. Because of the contradictory precedent, it is likely that this issue will be the subject of further litigation in the state.
The asbestos exposure lawsuit was brought by the estate of an Illinois woman who died of mesothelioma in 2006. In the suit, it was alleged that she contracted the disease after being exposed to asbestos via her husband, who worked at an asbestos plant in 1962 and 1963, and then brought the asbestos fibers home on his clothing, causing his wife to be exposed as well.
The trial court agreed with the plaintiff, awarding damages of $2.6 million to the woman’s estate. However, the Fourth District of the Appellate Court of Illinois overturned the verdict after finding that there was no relationship between the woman and the defendant company, and that the company therefore had no duty to protect her from asbestos exposure.
Even if there was a finding that a relationship existed, the court said, there would also have to be a finding that the damage was foreseeable by the company. Despite evidence of a study showing an association between so-called take-home asbestos and lung cancer in 1964, the court ruled that the woman’s mesothelioma was not foreseeable.
The conflicting precedent in various Illinois court districts means that similar cases will likely continue to be litigated in the state, with varying results. We will update this blog with any further developments.
Source: Legal Newsline, “Ill. court overturns $2.6M take-home asbestos verdict,” John O’Brien, 19 July 2011