Illinois Appellate Court gives green light to asbestos case alleging conspiracy amongst manufacturers to hide the risks.

Image result for Owens Illinois images

Jones v. Pneumo Abex, LLC is an interesting asbestos decision out of the Fifth Appellate District in Illinois.  And it likely has asbestos manufacturers concerned.  In Jones, the plaintiffs, John and Deborah Jones, sued Pneumo Abex and Owens-Illinois for injuries John suffered due to asbestos exposure when he worked in construction.  John Jones never worked for either defendant.  He did however, work with construction products that featured asbestos. 

Jones alleged that the defendants were responsible for his lung cancer because they entered into conspiracies with other parties to to conceal the harmful effects of asbestos exposure and to wrongfully assert that asbestos exposure was perfectly safe.  The complaint further alleged that the defendants manipulated the scientific and legal landscape to protect asbestos manufacturers and that as a result, John was injured.  The two defendants moved to have the case tossed, arguing that it was similar to some Fourth Appellate District cases where judges had found insufficient evidence to show there was a shadowy agreement to suppress the harmful impact of asbestos exposure.  Relying on those cases the trial court tossed the cases and Jones appealed. 

The Fifth District Appellate Court however, reversed the trial court.  In doing so the Appellate Court specifically noted that:

  • Abex, after funding years of a medical study on asbestos, sought to suppress the report’s discussion of tumors and cancers;
  • Owen-Illinois continued selling a thermal insulation product known as Kaylo after being advised it represented a respiratory hazard as early as 1952; and
  • Owens-Illinois failed to place on markings on Kaylo packaging despite knowing of the respiratory issues, until the late 1960’s.

The Court noted that based on those facts as well as other evidence that had been presented, the plaintiffs had demonstrated that a judge could conclude a conspiracy was in place.  

While there are substantial battles that remain before Mr. Jones ever sees any money, this decision likely has the attention of the manufacturers.  And it should.  Jurors won’t take kindly to the kind of evidence the Appellate Court discussed.