Bethany Krajelis Apr. 17, 2013, 4:42pm

One of more than two dozen defendants in an asbestos lung cancer lawsuit has removed the matter to federal court.

United Technologies Corp. (UTC) on Monday filed a notice to remove the suit that William Wood filed in July from the Madison County Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Wood sued UTC and 27 other companies, claiming that he developed lung cancer as a direct result of being exposed to the defendants’ asbestos-containing products.

He worked as an aircraft electrician, as well as a manufacturing and construction worker, from 1960 to 1981 and spent time at numerous job sites in Ohio and West Virginia, his complaint states.

Asserting that the defendants should have known about the dangers associated with asbestos, Wood’s eight-count complaint seeks more than $50,000 and includes claims for negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, conspiracy, negligent spoliation of evidence and strict liability.

Steven Aroesty, an attorney at Napoli, Bern, Ripka, Shkolnik in Edwardsville, represents Wood.

He has filed at least two other lung cancer asbestos suits --  Leggett v. Boeing Co. et al. and Spells Jr. v. Air & Liquid Systems Corporation et al. -- in  Madison County since late last year.

The increasing number of nationwide lung cancer suits has been dubbed a new trend in asbestos litigation. Attorneys discussed it last month at the “Cutting-Edge Issues in Asbestos Litigation Conference” in Beverley Hills, Calif.

Like the removal notice UTC filed in the Leggett case, which names it and 19 other companies as defendants, UTC pointed to the U.S. Code’s federal officer removal provision to remove Wood’s suit from state court to federal court.

This provision allows parties to remove suits if they can prove they acted under the direction of a federal officer, raise a colorable federal defense to the claims and show a causal nexus between the claims and acts performed.

The plaintiff in Leggett last month filed a motion to remand the case back to state court. CBS Corp., one of about 30 defendants in the Spells suit, also asserted the federal officer removal provision to remove its case to federal court.

UTC asserts that it is entitled to the removal provision because it acted as a government contractor when it manufactured aircraft engines for use by the U.S. Air Force. Wood, it notes, worked as an aircraft electrician in the Air Force from 1965 to 1969.

William Shultz Jr. of Kurowski & Shultz Jr. in Swansea represents UTC.

Since the removal notice was filed on Monday, U.S. District Court Judges Michael Reagan and J. Phil Gilbert have both recused themselves from hearing the case.

An order entered today shows that Judge William Stiehl has been assigned to the case.

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