Asbestos lawsuits account for more than half of all major civil cases filed so far this year in Madison County Circuit Court.

On April 10, the estate of a Virginia man who died from mesothelioma filed suit against 10 corporations claiming his disease was wrongfully caused.

The suit was the 300th civil suit seeking damages in excess of $50,000 and the 165th asbestos case filed here so far in 2008.

According to the complaint, William Pierce was employed from 1940 to 1984 as a welder and assembly line worker at various locations.

Pierce's estate claims that during the course of his employment and during home and automotive repairs he was exposed to and inhaled, ingested or otherwise absorbed asbestos fibers emanating from certain products he was working with and around.

The complaint names Atlas Asbestos Company, Bell Asbestos Mines, Bondex International, Foseco, Georgia-Pacific, John Crane, Pneumo Abex, RPM International, RPM Inc. and T.H. Agriculture & Nutrition.

His estate claims the defendants knew or should have known that the asbestos fibers contained in their products had a toxic, poisonous and highly deleterious effect upon the health of people.

According to Pierce's estate, he first became aware that he suffered from mesothelioma on Oct. 15, 2002, and subsequently died on Nov. 10, 2003.

Pierce's estate alleges that the defendants included asbestos in their products even when adequate substitutes were available and failed to provide any or adequate instructions concerning the safe methods of working with and around asbestos.

It also claims that the defendants failed to require and advise employees of hygiene practices designed to reduce or prevent carrying asbestos fibers home.

As a result of the alleged negligence, the estate claims Pierce was exposed to fibers containing asbestos and developed a disease caused only by asbestos which disabled and disfigured him.

The estate claims that prior to his death, Pierce suffered great physical pain and mental anguish, and also was hindered and prevented from pursuing his normal course of employment, thereby losing large sums of money.

The estate is seeking at least $200,000 in damages for negligence and willful and wanton conduct.

"In addition to compensatory damages, an award of punitive damages is appropriate and necessary in order to punish the defendants for willful, wanton, intentional and reckless misconduct and to deter them and others from engaging in like misconduct in the future," the complaint states.

Pierce's estate is represented by John Barnerd, Robert Phillips and Perry Browder of SimmonsCooper in East Alton.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Daniel Stack.

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