Asbestos case settles after jury picked in Harrison's court

Christina Stueve Mar. 7, 2012, 10:56am




Moments before an asbestos case was set to go to trial in Madison County on Tuesday, lawyers for the two remaining defendants announced a settlement.

Plaintiffs Dennis Kimball Sr. and his wife Carla Kimball, both of Minnesota, filed suit less than a year ago on Aug. 1, 2011.

A jury had already been selected to hear the Kimballs' mesothelioma case.

John Crane, an international gasket maker with headquarters in the Chicago area, and Crane Company, an industrial products manufacturer based in Stamford, Conn., were the last two of 56 defendants to settle.

Ed Burns, of O'Connell & Associates in Elgin, represented John Crane.

Jeffrey King of K&L Gates in Boston and Nicole Behnen of Polsinelli Shughart in St. Louis represented Crane Co.

"By the time we selected a jury, we were down to two Crane defendants with three lawyers," said Associate Judge Clarence Harrison.

Ted Giarnaris, Nicholas Angelides and John Barnerd of the Simmons firm in Alton represented the plaintiffs.

Dennis Kimball Sr. had been employed from 1966 until 2011 as a millwright, power plant consultant and maintenance worker at various locations, including Illinois, his complaint stated.

During his employment, he was exposed to asbestos coming from fibers he worked around. Kimball Sr. allegedly learned of his disease on May 11, 2011.

Harrison did not disclose the terms of the settlement.

John Crane, which also operates in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Russia, is typically named as a defendant in Madison County asbestos cases, particularly in cases where the plaintiff is from out of state.

Critics have said that John Crane, an Illinois corporation, is repeatedly named as a defendant to establish that Madison County is an appropriate venue for out of state plaintiffs.

An attorney for U.S. Steel, which was hit with a whopping $250 million verdict in 2003 (but later reduced), argued that John Crane was a "plaintiff foil" because its lawyers were seen conferring with the plaintiff's lawyers during jury selection.

Again in 2005, a defense attorney said that the plaintiff attorney in a trial against General Electric made a "sweetheart deal" with John Crane by not presenting any evidence or listing any witnesses against John Crane.

Burns declined to respond at the time. But his partner Dan O'Connell of O'Connell & Associates denied an improper relationship with asbestos plaintiffs.

Madison County Case Number 11-L-743.

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