Jury reaches defense verdict in Madison County trial

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 1, 2006, 10:45pm

A Madison County jury cleared Bondex International and Georgia Pacific of any wrongdoing in the county's first asbestos trial of 2006.

Anita O'Connell, 84, of Burbank Ill., claimed the defendants were negligent for injuries she received from asbestos fibers that became airborne while she shook out her husband's work clothes before washing them.

O'Connell was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February 2004.

Her husband, George O'Connell, owned Bel-Aire plastering, in Burbank. She claimed she came in contact with asbestos by washing her husband's and children's clothes.

Chris Panatier and Charla Aldous of Baron & Budd in Texas represented Anita O'Connell who only appeared by video during the two week trial. Aldous asked the jury of nine women and five men to award her $10 million, money O'Connell would gladly trade not to have a disease that will cause a painful death.

After deliberating several hours Wednesday, the jury reached its decision at approximately 8:30 p.m.

"I don't like a lot of things that happened at this trial," lead defense attorney Jeff Hebrank of the Burroughs Firm in Edwardsville told the jury at closing arguments Wednesday.

He asked the jury to consider why the three O'Connell sons who worked with their father at his plastering business did not testify.

Hebrank was referring to Anita's sons, Tom, Terry, and Don, who did not testify and whose clothes she would have washed. Anita O'Connell's youngest son, who did not work for his father, Michael O'Connell, testified that he was the one who would have brought the asbestos dust home on his clothes. Michael O'Connell testified that he did "scab" drywall work for three years in which he used Bondex and Georgia-Pacific joint compound.

Hebrank also told the jury that there was no corroboration to any of the evidence and that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof.

Mark Phillips of Nelson Mullins Riley Scarborough in South Carolina also represented Georgia-Pacific.

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133 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, GA 30303

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
949 3rd Avenue
Huntington, WV 25701

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