Madison - St. Clair Record

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Simmons Firm takes asbestos case to trial in Madison County; First asbestos trial in almost two years

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo and Ann Maher | Jan 22, 2016


The Simmons Firm took an Idaho pipefitter’s asbestos lawsuit against Crane Co. to trial in Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs’ courtroom in Madison County and asked the court to preclude the defense from referencing or providing evidence of additional asbestos exposures.

Opening statements in the case began Friday. Crane Co., a company that supplied mechanical gaskets and valves, was the only remaining defendant at the time of trial.

This is the first asbestos trial in Madison County since February 2014, which resulted in a defense verdict in favor of Crane Co.

The Simmons Firm filed the case on March 6, 2015, on behalf of plaintiffs Roy and Peggy Bale of Boise, Idaho. But attorney Troy Chandler of Chandler of Chandler McNulty in Houston delivered opening statements for the plaintiffs.

Attorney Geoffrey Davis of K&L Gates in Las Angeles delivered opening statements for Crane Co. Jeff Hebrank of HeplerBroom in Edwardsville is acting as local counsel for the defense.  

The original complaint states that Roy Bale developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure while working as a pipefitter at various locations, mostly in Idaho, from 1967 to 2007. However, parties said Bale was a pipefitter from 1968 to 2012 during Friday’s testimonies.

Roy Bale alleges he removed and replaced asbestos-containing gaskets and valves manufactured by Crane Co. hundreds of times throughout his career as a pipefitter.

In one brief filed on record, the plaintiff said he worked specifically with Crane gaskets from 1970 to 1988 in Boise, Idaho.

The plaintiff also alleges he removed asbestos-containing mud insulation from the body of Crane and Stockholm valves.

Prior to the start of trial, several motions in limine were filed but have not been ruled on. In one motion specifically, the plaintiff asked the court to prevent the defense from mentioning any additional exposures or potential parties.

During opening statements Friday morning, Davis argued that Crane Co. is not responsible for causing Roy Bale’s mesothelioma because it has not used asbestos in its products since 1953, which was more than a decade before the plaintiff began working with Crane products.

He added that those that did contain asbestos used chrysotile asbestos, which is the center of debate over whether or not it is actually carcinogenic. Chrysotile asbestos fibers are most commonly used and are considered the safest. The shorter fibers are less potent and less dangerous, and they are generally expelled from the body quickly.

Further, because the gaskets and valves are encased, they typically release extremely low levels of asbestos, Davis said.

The first witness called to testify in the case was Dr. Barry Castleman, who works in the field of toxic substances control.

Castleman, who received a doctorate in public health, said he was being paid $400 per hour for his work with the Bale asbestos case, noting that asbestos litigation is how he makes a living.

Castleman spent the first half of his testimony discussing his work with World Bank and his worldwide efforts to convince other countries to stop exporting asbestos, which he says he does for little money or often times for free.

Castleman also testified in the King trial in 2014, where he primarily focused on tracing the timeline of public knowledge of asbestos dangers from 1898 until after the 1970s.

He will continue his testimony after the jurors’ lunch break.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-303

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