Madison County jurors rule for defense in asbestos trial

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 10, 2007, 8:47am

Ted Gianaris

Madison County jurors on Wednesday afternoon delivered yet another defense verdict in a rare asbestos trial.

After deliberating approximately six hours jurors found in favor of National Lead, which stood accused of causing plaintiff John Larson's mesothelioma.

Larson was represented by Ted Gianaris of SimmonsCooper in East Alton who had asked the jury to award his client between $6 million and $29 million.

The suit was filed earlier this year alleging that William Larson, the plaintiff's father, would bring asbestos dust home on his clothes after which time it would again become airborne.

Larson claimed he was repeatedly exposed to asbestos dust from his father's clothing and person.

Madison County Associate Judge Clarence Harrison presided over the five day trial.

The defense verdict is the fourth in a row for asbestos defendants dating back to 2005.

Asbestos cases rarely go to trial. In Madison County they have normally settled out of court for millions of dollars.

On March 2, 2006, Bondex International and Georgia-Pacific were found not to be at fault in causing 84-year-old Anita O'Connell's mesothelioma.

She claimed she was exposed to asbestos while washing her husband's work clothes between 1966 and 1970.

O'Connell, of Burbank, Ill., claimed Bondex International and Georgia-Pacific were negligent for injuries she received from asbestos fibers that became airborne while she shook out her husband's work clothes.

The jury rejected that claim in five-and-a-half hours.

Willard King, age 77, of Fenton, Mo., blamed Bondex, Georgia Pacific, John Crane, RPM Inc. and Lynn Tractor and Equipment Company for his deadly asbestos-related illness. He claims he was contaminated from working on farm equipment and cars from 1950 through 1987.

On May 19, 2005, after deliberating nearly nine hours over two days, Madison County jurors found in favor of Willard King and awarded him and his wife a relatively paltry sum of $500,000.

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

That amount was reduced to almost nothing because the Kings had received settlements prior to taking on the defendants and those amounts reduced the verdict.

On May 26, 2005, Jane Gudmundson claimed her late husband Harvey Gudmundson was exposed to asbestos while serving on the U.S.S. Bausell--a navy destroyer during the Korean War in the early 1950s during her asbestos trial.

Gudmundson, of Cook County, Ill., alleged that the General Electric asbestos-insulated steam turbines in the Bausell caused her husband's mesothelioma.

However, it took a Madison County jury less than 20 minutes to rule in favor of defendant General Electric in an eight-day asbestos trial which was almost cut short by the presiding judge for its "weak" evidence.

Prior to those trials, Madison County jurors awarded millions of dollars to sick plaintiffs suffering from mesothelioma.

Three trials held in Madison County between 2000 and 2003 resulted in verdicts of $16 million, $34 million and a whopping $250 million.

In April 2003, a Madison County jury ordered US Steel to pay Roby Whittington of Indiana $250 million for his asbestos-related illness. The case settled for much less following the trial.

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