Hearing set Nov. 29 on silicosis lawsuits

Steve Korris Nov. 9, 2006, 10:23pm

Judge Daniel Stack

Owners of a Wisconsin iron foundry admit they use silica but they do not admit that it got into the lungs of 33 retired Chicago factory workers who sued them in Madison County last year.

According to attorney Michael Murphy of Belleville, representing Brillion Iron Works of Brillion, Wisc., "…none of the plaintiffs could ever have been exposed to any silica based products which may have been present at the defendant's plant."

The silica that Brillion Iron Works uses for molding and finishing remains at the plant, Murphy wrote in a motion for summary judgment on all 33 silicosis suits.

Texas attorney Brent Coon sued Brillion Iron Works and dozens of other companies last year. At the same time he filed 138 asbestosis suits.

Most of the silicosis suits came from plaintiffs already in the asbestosis group, even though no doctor has diagnosed both diseases in the same patient.

The complaints identified most plaintiffs as Illinois residents.

The Madison County Record called eight plaintiffs who said they worked at a General Motors locomotive factory near Chicago.

All said they did not know where Madison County was. All said they did not know anyone had filed their suits.

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, who runs the court's asbestos docket, placed the asbestosis claims on a deferred registry.

Because the court has no separate silicosis docket, circuit judges shared them as they would share other civil suits.

One by one, silicosis defendants challenged the court's jurisdiction. They moved to transfer to another Illinois court or to dismiss so that plaintiffs could sue in other states.

In June Chief Judge Ann Callis consolidated the silicosis cases "for the purposes of determining venue/forum non conveniens issues only." She assigned them to Stack.

Motions kept rolling in, identifying one plaintiff but applying to all.

Attorney Scott Henry of Chicago wrote for M.A. Bell Company that plaintiff failed to allege that any part of his cause of action arose in Madison County.

Henry wrote that in the argument of the plaintiffs for venue in Madison County, they cited a section of Illinois statute that does not exist.

For Truman's Inc., John Cunningham of Belleville wrote that plaintiff failed to identify job sites where he was exposed to silica.

Cunningham wrote, "Plaintiff fails to identify more than one place of employment, yet he states that he worked at various locations."

He wrote, "He fails to attribute how he was harmed by any specific defendant."

He wrote that plaintiff should amend his complaint to include his county of residence and the locations of alleged exposures and injuries."

Stack has set a hearing Nov. 29.

Recent filings show active defense in the silicosis suits from American Optical, AMCOL International, Kelco Sales & Engineering, Kyanite Mining, Lockheed Martin, Unimin Corporation, Louis M. Gerson Inc., Parmelee Industries, Sammons Corporation, Vallen Corporation, 3M, Textron, North Safety Products, Ottawa Silica, U.S. Silica, Foseco Inc., LaFarge North America, Pangborn Corporation, U.S. Filter Operating Services, E.D. Bullard Company, C-E Minerals, Bacou-Dollaz, Mine Safety Appliance, Porter Warner Industries, Clemco, Scott Technologies, Glendale Protective Technologies, Flexo, P.K. Lindsay and Encon Manufacturing.

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