Plaintiff's seeking $40 million in Madison County asbestos trial

Steve Gonzalez May 18, 2005, 2:53pm

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack

Troyce Wolf

Barry Julian

"Corporate greed and corporate indifference is as toxic as the poison they mixed in their products," said a plaintiff's attorney during closing arguments in Madison County's first asbestos trial in nearly two years.

Troyce Wolf, of Waters Kraus of Dallas, told jurors he was seeking compensatory damages of $6.2 million for 78-year-old Willard King, and $4 million for his wife of 57 years, Elizabeth, for the loss of services of her husband.

"These numbers are not excessive," Wolf said.

And unless punitive damages were four times the amount of compensatory damages the jury awards, "they will not get the corporations' attention," Wolf said.

"They will continue to put profits ahead of people's lives."

Closing arguments were heard in a standing room only courtroom before Circuit Judge Daniel Stack Wednesday afternoon.

Barry Julian, King's lead attorney, said his client was a victim of a do-it-yourself project that "went bad."

"He sits in a chair. He can't drive. He effectively lost his life," Julian told jurors.

King was diagnosed with mesothelioma on May 5, 2004, claiming contamination through the remodeling of his Fenton, Mo. home in the early 1970s. He and his wife filed suit June 2, 2004, alleging the disease was caused by his exposure to asbestos fibers from Bondex and Georgia Pacific joint compound.

When the trial began, Lynn Tractor and John Crane also were defendants. Before closing arguments started, Stack told the jurors that they are no longer involved in the lawsuit, and they do not need to wonder why.

Edward Burns of O'Connell & Associates in Elgin, who represents John Crane, told The Record, that his client had a directed verdict and that there was not enough evidence to keep his client as a defendant.

Julian, of the Alton firm Wise & Julian, told the jurors that his client was a changed man.

"He went through chemotherapy," Julian said. "He was sick. Diabetes was out of control. He had blood transfusions, and an increased risk of infection."

Wolf also told jurors they had an opportunity to "right the wrong."

"This is a very important case," Wolf said. "Mr. King has been given a death sentence. Mrs. King is losing the love of her life.

"I am confident you will do the right thing."

King did not testify at his trial and was never present. Wolf said he was to sick to attend.

King's daughter, Kathy McClelland, 55, also of Fenton, testified that she bought Georgia-Pacific and Bondex joint compound for her father at Central Hardware during the project.

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