Oregonian files asbestos suit in Madison County

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 19, 2006, 8:44am

An Oregon woman suffering from mesothelioma filed an asbestos suit against 63 defendants in Madison County Circuit Court July 18, alleging she was exposed to airborne asbestos fibers from family members' clothing.

Dolores Ernst claims her former husband, Robert Ernst, was employed from 1955 to 1971 as a salesman at various locations and her mother was employed as a factory worker at various locations including Chicago.

She also claims her aunt was employed as a factory worker at various locations including Chicago.

She alleges that her family members worked with and around asbestos-containing products.

"Dust created by working with and around asbestos and asbestos-containing products would permeate the person and clothing of the plaintiff's family members," the complaint states. "This dust contained asbestos fiber."

Ernst claims her family members would carry the asbestos dust on their clothing home with them where it would again become airborne.

"The plaintiff would be repeatedly exposed to this asbestos dust from her family member's person and clothing," the complaint states.

Ernst was employed from 1945 through 2004 as a clerk at various locations in Illinois.

She claims asbestos exposure during non-occupational work projects including home and automotive repairs, maintenance and remodeling.

She was diagnosed with mesothelioma on Feb. 9, and subsequently became aware her illness was wrongfully caused, the suit claims.

The complaint alleges that defendants failed to require and advise their employees of hygiene practices designed to reduce or prevent carrying asbestos fibers home.

As a result of the alleged negligence, Ernst claims she was exposed to fibers containing asbestos, and developed a disease caused only by asbestos which has disabled and disfigured her.

Ernst also claims that she has sought, but been unable to obtain, full disclosure of relevant documents and information from the defendants leading her to believe the defendants destroyed documents related to asbestos.

"It was foreseeable to a reasonable person/entity in the respective positions of defendants, that said documents and information constituted evidence, which was material to potential civil litigation-namely asbestos litigation," the complaint states.

She claims as a result of each defendant breaching its duty to preserve material evidence by destroying documents and information she has been prejudiced and impaired in proving claims against all potential parties.

"Plaintiff has been caused to suffer damages in the form of impaired ability to recover against defendants and lost or reduced compensation from other potentially liable parties in this litigation,' the complaint states.

Ernst also singles out Olin Corporation claiming that her former husband was employed by Olin in Wisconsin and California from 1955 to 1971 and was exposed to raw asbestos that was being used at the plants.

"Olin knew or should have known that exposure to asbestos fibers posed an unreasonable risk of harm to plaintiff and others similarly situated," the complaint states.

She claims Olin's use of raw asbestos in a manner that caused the release of asbestos fibers constituted an ultra-hazardous activity.

"Olin is strictly liable for injuries caused by such activity, regardless of the amount of care exercised."

Represented by Nicholas Angelides, Perry Browder and John Barnerd of SimmonsCooper in East Alton, Ernst is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $700,000, plus punitive damages.

"An award of punitive damages is appropriate and necessary in order to punish defendants for their willful, wanton, intentional and/or reckless misconduct and to deter defendants and others from engaging in like misconduct in the future."

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Dan Stack.

06 L 603

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