SPRINGFIELD – Companies that conspired to hide the hazards of asbestos occupy the same legal position as those that supplied asbestos to workers, according to attorney James Wylder of Bloomington.
He captured the essence of his conspiracy theory for Fourth District appellate judges on April 26, in a brief seeking to preserve McLean County jury verdicts against Honeywell and Pneumo Abex.
Wylder and associate Lisa Corwin hold Honeywell liable for conspiracy as successor to brake maker Bendix, and hold Pneumo Abex liable as successor to American Brake and Block.
Some of their clients worked at Unarco, an asbestos plant in Bloomington.
Their theory allows them to present evidence of events that happened 50 to 100 years ago.
It allows them to spread liability from bankrupt asbestos companies like Johns-Manville and Raybestos Manhattan to solvent companies.
In three consolidated appeals at the Fourth District, Honeywell has pleaded that Bendix owed no duty to persons it didn't employ.
Wylder answered, "Bendix's duty was to not participate in a conspiracy."
"If, as supported by the evidence at trial, Bendix participated in a conspiracy, then the acts of Johns-Manville and Raybestos Manhattan in supplying products to Unarco, who employed Merlon, John and Robert without warning of the hazards, are legally the same as if Bendix had supplied the products and employed these men," Wylder wrote.
He also countered arguments from Honeywell and Abex that most companies and the United States government acted the same way in regard to asbestos.
"The conspirators knew that the federal government possessed knowledge and also knew the federal government lacked the power to require the conspirators to abate their
tortuous activity," he wrote.
In consolidated appeals of two other verdicts, Wylder's brief is due May 23.
Fourth District judges heard oral arguments on two other verdicts in March and April.