Four former railroad workers are seeking more than $1 million from five railroad corporations, alleging they developed asbestosis after they were exposed to asbestos and second-hand cigarette smoke during their employment.

Gerald Abbott, Thomas Wright, Ronald Franklin and Carl Cory filed a lawsuit May 29 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against CSX Transportation, Consolidated Rail Corporation, American Premier Underwriters, The Alton and Southern Railway Company and Union Pacific Railroad Company.

Because of their work for the companies, the men say they developed asbestosis and respiratory illness.

They now suffer great pain and disability, mental anguish and extreme nervousness and have lost large amounts of income because of their disabilities, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs say the companies violated the Federal Employers Liability Act by failing to provide them with a safe place to work, by failing to provide them with adequate equipment, by exposing them to asbestos, by failing to warn them of the hazards of asbestos and by permitting unsafe work practices to become common.

The railroad corporations also violated the Locomotive Boiler Inspection Act by failing to provide locomotives whose appurtenances were in proper and safe conditions, by requiring plaintiffs to work on locomotives that were defective because they were contaminated with asbestos, silica, second-hand smoke and emitted dangerous amounts of diesel exhaust, the suit states.

All of the men worked for the railroad in carman craft. Abbott worked from 1941 until 1961; Wright from 1957 until 1959; Franklin from 1964 until 1984 and Cory from 1950 until 1963, the complaint says.

In the 28-count suit, the men are seeking a judgment in excess of $1.4 million, plus costs.

William P. Gavin of the Gavin Law Firm in Belleville will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-284.

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