Is Barry Castleman part of a noble international crusade to protect consumers from a dangerous mineral by promoting the banning of asbestos, or is he a socialist apostle using trumped-up lawsuits against manufacturers to undermine the capitalist system and the free societies it supports? Who can say.

This much is certain: If you destroy enough American companies and the industries they belong to, you can destroy the American economy and the country. And what kind of government would fill that vacuum?

In any case, if a person's actions, whatever the alleged motives, tend always to produce the same results, it's reasonable to conclude that those results were intended.

Because Castleman's been a frequent visitor to our parts in recent years, we've had plenty of chances to see him in action. He's a favorite expert witness of local attorneys James Wylder and Lisa Corwin, who have achieved some small notoriety for their propagation of theories postulating conspiracies between living and dead manufacturers/distributors of materials containing asbestos.

Castleman has had a penchant for presenting facts selectively to support his chronicle of corrupt capitalists eager to sacrifice the safety of employees and consumers for profit's sake.

But judges for the Fourth District Appellate Court didn't buy it.

They reversed Circuit Judge Scott Drazewski's decision ordering Honeywell and Pneumo-Abex to pay nearly $700,000 to a Wylder client, and they overruled two Fourth District precedents that had sustained Wylder's weird theories of collaboration between dead and undead businessmen.

Key to the cases was Castleman's contention that companies conspired to hide a 1943 report concerning tumors in laboratory mice.

The appellate court concluded that the companies suppressed the report because it lacked controls and was inconclusive.

"It cannot be unlawful to hide information that is devoid of significance," Justice Thomas Appleton wrote, expressing concerns about Castleman's lack of expertise in pathology and rodent experimentation.

This could mean curtains for Castleman and his anti-asbestos act. Let's hope so.

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