Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Chicago researcher has appeared for plaintiffs in Madison County asbestos; Med center also accepted funding from Simmons foundation

By Ann Maher | Feb 12, 2015


A Chicago doctor whose research organization has received funding from the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation has appeared in Madison County asbestos litigation as a treating physician and expert witness.

Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler is director of the Mesothelioma Program at the University of Chicago Medical Center, which in the past two years has received between $150,000 and $350,000 from the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation, according to the center's most recent annual reports.

The Foundation was established by the Simmons firm in 2010 to fund projects that will "stop the progression of this devastating disease."

Kindler's testimony by video at a 2010 trial in Madison County had been a significant point of contention for defendant Ford Motor Co.

Ford, represented in part by Manny Sanchez of Chicago, had sought to strike portions of her testimony on the grounds that Kindler was not qualified to testify beyond the scope of her treatment of plaintiff Larry Williams of Chicago.

Williams sued in 2009 alleging he developed mesothelioma after working with brake products and the resulting dust that contained asbestos.

He was represented by Nathaniel Mudd, a former attorney for the Simmons firm, and T. Barton French. Maryland attorney Jonathan Ruckdeschel also served as co-counsel at trial.

"The testimony of a treating physician who is not designated as an expert is limited to his knowledge of the plaintiff's treatment while in the physician's care," Sanchez argued unsuccessfully before presiding Judge Barbara Crowder.

Kindler testified that based on her treatment of dozens of brake mechanics - among thousands of mesothelioma patients - she had seen a pattern and was "certainly convinced...working on brakes that this is definitely a cause of mesothelioma," according to court documents.

"Kindler concluded that the most likely source of Williams' asbestos exposure would have been the brake work he did in his uncle's automobile shop," states a motion to strike portions of Kindler's testimony. "However, Kindler admitted that she is not a pathologist, epidemiologist or industrial hygenist."

Jurors ultimately ruled for Ford.

Kindler's research program is among six funded by the Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation.

The Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation also has provided funding to a doctor who is cooperating with federal authorities in a case against the powerful New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Dr. Robert Taub, who had headed the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center, received $3.15 million for his center from Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation in 2010.

The New York Daily News reported Jan. 24 that Taub is cooperating with the FBI and has been given a nonprosecution agreement in exchange for his testimony against Silver.

According to charges against Silver, the doctor referred patients to the high profile asbestos firm Weitz and Luxenberg, which employed Silver. The cases referred by the doctor generated millions in fees for Silver, and in exchange, prosecutors say, Silver secretly directed state funding to the doctor’s center.

A Jan. 24 article in the New York Times states that, according to court papers, Taub in 2010 began to get financial support from the Simmons foundation and to send patients to the Simmons firm.

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Organizations in this Story

Weitz and LuxenbergThe University of Chicago