Oral arguments in McLean County asbestos conspiracy case canceled

Steve Korris Sep. 9, 2011, 5:33am




SPRINGFIELD – As James Wylder of Bloomington awaited an opportunity to rescue his asbestos conspiracy theory in oral arguments at the Fourth District appellate court, the court canceled his date.

On Aug. 23, clerk Carla Bender vacated a Sept. 8 setting in a consolidated appeal of three McLean County jury verdicts against Honeywell International.

Bender wrote, "The case will be submitted as a non oral at a later date."

Fourth District judges Thomas Appleton, John McCullough and John Turner exploded Wylder's theory in July, reversing a verdict against Honeywell and Pneumo-Abex.

They discounted testimony of expert witness Barry Castleman, who told jurors that companies conspired to hide the dangers of asbestos 50 to 100 years ago.

Appleton wrote that companies suppressed a report on mouse tumors because the author told them it lacked controls and meant nothing.

"It cannot be unlawful to hide information that is devoid of significance," Appleton wrote.

He wrote that Castleman's qualifications were unclear.

"He apparently was not a medical doctor or a veterinarian," he wrote.

The decision overruled two precedents that had sustained asbestos conspiracy trials in McLean and neighboring counties.

Wylder moved for reconsideration on Aug. 5, claiming Fourth District judges defended Honeywell and Pneumo-Abex better than the companies defended themselves.

He wrote that they raised arguments the defendants didn't present or preserve.

He wrote that the opinion contained so many inaccuracies he couldn't address them all in the petition.

While he awaited action on that, he prepared to argue Honeywell's triple appeal.

On Aug. 22, Honeywell lawyer Colleen Baime of Chicago moved for leave to file the July 15 opinion as a supplemental brief.

Wylder associate Lisa Corwin opposed the motion two days later, apparently unaware that the court had called off the argument.

She wrote that cases in the triple appeal were different from the one in the July opinion.

She wrote that analysis in the opinion wouldn't bind whatever panel analyzed the cases.

She wrote that parties were free to argue the impact of the opinion at oral argument.

On Sept. 1, Bender wrote that Wylder's opposition to Honeywell's supplement was overruled.

In June, in another Wylder case from McLean County, Turner had written an opinion eliminating "take home" claims.

A similar case awaits a decision at the Illinois Supreme Court.

In that case, Simpkins v. CSX Transportation, Fifth District appellate judges in Mount Vernon ruled that employers had a duty to warn workers.

Fourth District review of McLean County conspiracy trials will continue on Sept. 8, when a panel of three judges will hear oral arguments in three appeals at once.

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