Asbestos trial to get under way in Madison County

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 16, 2006, 3:17pm

On the heels of a monumental weld rod defense verdict, attorney Jeff Hebrank of the Hepler Broom law firm has begun picking a new Madison County jury for an upcoming asbestos trial.

Hebrank, who will represent Bondex International and Georgia-Pacific, has helped his firm win its last two Madison County trials.

At this new trial Joyce Applequist will try to prove she was exposed to and inhaled, ingested or otherwise absorbed large amounts of asbestos fibers emanating from products she was working with or around.

Applequist, represented by Randy Gori of The Goldenberg firm, filed suit in November 2004.

Asbestos cases rarely go to trial. They normally settle out of court for millions of dollars.

"The defendants knew of or should have known that the asbestos fibers contained in their products had a toxic, poisonous, and highly deleterious effect upon the health of people inhaling, ingesting, or otherwise absorbing them," Applequist's complaint states.

The trial is expected to last through the first week of December. Madison County Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn will preside.

Applequist alleges the defendants are guilty of willful and wanton misconduct. She claims she has had to undergo costly medical treatment and that she suffers great physical pain and mental anguish as a result of her asbestos exposure.

She alleges that the defendants included asbestos in their products even when adequate substitutes were available and failed to provide any or adequate instructions concerning the safe methods of working with and around asbestos.

Applequist also claims Ronald was exposed to asbestos during non-occupational work projects including home and automotive repairs, maintenance and remodeling.

On March 2, a Madison County jury cleared Bondex International and Georgia Pacific of any wrongdoing in the county's first asbestos trial of the year.

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.

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.

In May 2005, a Madison County jury found in favor of Willard King and awarded him and his wife a relatively paltry sum of $500,000, but due to settlements already received, Bondex did not have to pay anything.

King, 78, of Fenton, Mo., blamed Bondex and Georgia-Pacific, for his deadly asbestos-related illness. He claimed he was contaminated from working on a home remodeling project in the early 1970s.

Georgia-Pacific was found not be at fault in the case.

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