High court directs appellate court to decide McLean County asbestos cases

Steve Korris May 27, 2011, 2:44am

SPRINGFIELD – Fourth District appeals judges in Springfield can't dodge their duty to define duty for 38 asbestos suits against Illinois Central Railroad, the Illinois Supreme Court decided on May 25.

The Court directed the Fourth District to review two orders of McLean County Circuit Judge Scott Drazewski, denying motions to dismiss suits against Illinois Central.

Drazewski ruled that workers at a former asbestos factory in Bloomington could pursue claims that predecessor railroad B & O exposed them to asbestos.

He found they could allege the railroad had a duty to unload boxcars for examination or to warn workers prior to moving boxcars.

Illinois Central applied to the Fourth District for review in December, arguing the litigation violates the Commerce Clause of the U. S. Constitution.

Railroad lawyers presented the question as critical to 36 other cases in McLean County.

Fourth District judges denied leave to appeal in January, and Illinois Central petitioned the Supreme Court for leave to appeal in February.

"Defendant seeks the court's authority to terminate not only this case, but also other pending and future litigation involving Illinois Central," wrote Leslie Shinners, of Boyle Brasher in Belleville.

"A common carrier possesses no duty to examine its cargo, identify any dangerous conditions inherent to the cargo, and notify the consignee and its employees of such conditions," Shinners wrote.

"Illinois Central has consistently obtained favorable results at trial or the cases have been resolved prior to trial," Shinners wrote.

"Despite these favorable results, Illinois Central continues to be named as a defendant in McLean County asbestos litigation," Shinners wrote.

The Justices didn't grant Illinois Central access to their court, but they granted it access to the appellate court around the corner.

Leslie Boyle, Thomas Peters, Mark Kunz, and Shinners, all of Boyle Brasher, represent Illinois Central.

James Wylder and Andrew Kelly of Bloomington represent John Monical, Patricia Monical, and Johnnie Brown in one case, Robert Compton in the other.

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