Callis opens benzene trial, jury selection lasting into second day

By Amelia Flood | Aug 17, 2010



A benzene case brought against a number of manufacturers got under way Tuesday in Madison County as parties from both sides began picking jurors.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis had been set to open the trial Monday but the case was delayed as parties worked on outstanding issues.

Jury selection kicked off at about 10:30 a.m., continuing until late into the day.

According to the case's docket sheet, a panel of 50 jurors was selected to open the day's voir dire. Jurors 32 through 50 were sent home for the day but were scheduled to return Wednesday morning.

Jurors 1 through 30 were examined by attorneys Tuesday.

Plaintiff Veto Kleinaitis filed suit against more than 20 different companies five years ago.

Kleinaitis, who worked in various jobs at the Bethalto airport, claims he developed lymphoma in 2005 after exposure to benzene and benzene-containing products.

The suit seeks punitive and other damages as relief.

The case was one of 17 filed by the SimmonsCooper law firm of East Alton between 2004 and 2006.

Most of those cases have been settled.

In Kleinaitis' case, the majority of defendants have settled, leaving
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company and 3M Company standing for trial.

3M faces separate claims about its masks and benzene protection equipment that the plaintiff claims were defective.

Attorneys for the parties argued a series of motions in limine during the first week of August, including one to bar mention of Veto Kleinaitis' marijuana use during his service in the U.S. Air Force.

Callis' rulings on the motions in limine are not yet available in the case file.

Callis also dismissed co-plaintiff Brenda Kleinaitis' claim for a loss of consortium against 3M Company in an order signed Aug. 3.

The plaintiff is represented by Ted Gianaris of the SimmonsCooper firm.

The case is Madison case number 05-L-1050.

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