Asbestos victim's wife set for trial

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 18, 2005, 10:45am

Alton resident Carla Willis, who sued Norfolk Southern Railyway and others for her husband's asbestos-related illness and death, is set to go to trial March 21 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Chief Asbestos Judge Daniel J. Stack will preside over the case.

Willis claims her husband, Gary, died on Feb. 28, 2002, 23 days after learning he was ill. But, the complaint does not name his disease.

Represented by Michael Bilbrey of Edwardsville, Willis is seeking at least $500,000 in damages for hospital and medical bills and the pain and mental anguish her husband suffered before his death, plus funeral expenses and loss of consortium. She also is seeking punitive and exemplary damages in excess of $100,000.

Asbestos cases rarely go to trial in Madison County. They normally settle out of court. A recent example includes Luke Lindau's $4 million settlement--reportedly the largest asbestos settlement in Illinois in 2004. Lindau, of Arlington Heights, suffers from mesothelioma.

According to the complaint which was filed on Feb. 4, 2004, Willis was employed at Norfolk Southern's Illinois Terminal Railroad from the 1950s -1980 as a laborer, truck driver, storekeeper, and head of stores.

“During the course of his employment, the plaintiff was exposed to and inhaled, ingested or otherwise absorbed large amounts of asbestos fibers emanating from certain products he was working with and around which were manufactured, sold, distributed or installed by the defendants," the complaint states.

Willis claims the defendants had a duty to exercise reasonable care and caution for her husband’s safety and others working around asbestos containing products.

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