Attorneys question jury for possible asbestos trial

Christina Stueve Hodges Oct. 11, 2012, 11:38am



About 58 prospective jurors filled a third floor courtroom Thursday for jury selection in an asbestos lawsuit presided over by Madison County Circuit Judge Clarence Harrison.

Plaintiff Donald Lehr of Fairview Heights filed a lawsuit Jan. 19 against Ford Motor Company, John Crane Company and 50 more defendant companies, after becoming aware of his mesothelioma Jan. 3.

Lehr worked as a pipefitter for the U.S. Army, Alcoa in East St. Louis, Dow Metal Products in Madison, Rexall Drug and Chemical Company, and Ford Motor Co.

Ford attorney Manuel Sanchez asked the jury how many of them believe Ford puts profits above employee safety.

"I'm trying to discern possible biases or prejudices," Sanchez said.

"How many of you agree there are two sides to every story?" he asked.

"Would any one of you hesitate to render a finding in favor of Ford and against the plaintiff?"

Sanchez asked the jury if anyone had hard feelings against Ford, or if anyone worked at the Ford plant in Hazelwood or for any other Ford-based business.

A female juror told Sanchez the tires on her car were worn after 14,000 miles.

"If they don't want to back up their tires, why do they want to help out this poor man who's suing?" she said.

Sanchez asked the jury if anyone would hesitate to render a finding in favor of Ford and against the plaintiff.

"Almost all of you are waiting to see what this case is about, if the plaintiff is entitled to recover money," Sanchez said.

Plaintiff's attorney Nathaniel Mudd told the jury his client wouldn't be able to attend the trial every day due to his terminal cancer.

"Does anyone else feel you've been bearing the burden of frivolous lawsuits?" Mudd asked.

A female juror told Mudd she wasn't aware Lehr's case is any different than any other asbestos case.

"The windfall that people get is astronomical," she said.

A male juror told the court he couldn't see how handing out a bunch of money will be rewarding to the family.

Harrison asked the jury if anyone had anything stopping them from being a juror in the case.

A male juror said his father, who had mesothelioma, died of a heart attack.

Another juror admitted her sister's father had mesothelioma.

A male juror said his father died of mesothelioma.

Mudd is a partner at Maune, Raichle Hartley French & Mudd in St. Louis.

Sanchez is a partner at Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman in Chicago.

In March 2010, Sanchez defended Ford Motor Co. in an asbestos case which ended with a defense verdict.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had asked for more than $14 million in damages.

Ford was sued along with a number of other brake manufacturers for allegedly selling products that caused a Chicago man's mesothelioma.

Juror questioning is expected to continue Friday.

Madison County Case number 12-L-79.

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