Former railroad employee claims negligence caused asbestos-induced lung cancer

By Melissa Busch | Apr 13, 2017

BELLEVILLE — A former engineer is suing past employers and others who manufactured or distributed asbestos products, stating their negligence led to his lung cancer.

BELLEVILLE — A former engineer is suing past employers and others who manufactured or distributed asbestos products, stating their negligence led to his lung cancer.  

On March 8, Wayne Nobles filed a suit in the St. Clair County Circuit Court alleging negligence against dozens of companies.

Nobles was an engineer at Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, a train manager at Soo Line Road Company and a salesman at Firestone Tire Company. Nobles also claims he was secondarily exposed by his father, Leander Nobles, who worked as a brakeman at Illinois Central Railroad, according to the suit.

In April 2014, Nobles learned that he had lung cancer, and the suit claims that the disease was wrongfully caused by asbestos exposure.

Throughout his life, he was exposed to, inhaled and absorbed large amounts of asbestos fibers coming from using products manufactured, sold, distributed or installed by the defendants. During all times, Nobles used the products as they were intended.

Though the defendants were aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure when Nobles was in contact with the carcinogen, they took no action to protect him, the suit claims.

Nobles filed claims of fraudulent misrepresentation, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Bridgestone/Firestone America’s Holding Inc. They allegedly continued to use asbestos-containing products throughout their facilities though they were aware of the long-term effects of prolonged exposure.

The suit claims the defendants were reckless because they continued to use the products though adequate substitutes were available and they failed to tell employees of the dangers of inhaling asbestos.

Additionally, they failed to provide appropriate instructions concerning safe methods of working with and near asbestos-containing products, according to the suit. The defendants also failed to provide medical examinations to employees exposed to the carcinogen. Medical examinations were not provided until the 1980s, according to the suit.

From 1972-99, Nobles worked with asbestos-containing products, such as pipe and block installation, sheetrock, brake shoes and gaskets, while working with the Illinois Central Railroad Co. The railroad directly and substantially impacted interstate commerce, so the rights and liabilities of the defendants are governed by the Federal Employee Liability Act. The defendants violated the act by failing to provide Nobles with the use of safe and suitable tools and equipment and a safe place to work and by failing to operate a locomotive repair facility in a reasonable manner, according to the suit.

Nobles also filed claims against the railroad for violating the Locomotive Boiler Inspection Act and the Safety Appliance Act.

According to the suit, Nobles claims his exposure was due to faulty or leaky respirators produced by 3M Company. According to the suit, the company was negligent because it knew or should have known that the respirators didn’t sufficiently protect Nobles from exposure.

Negligent spoliation of evidence, as well as willful and wanton spoliation of evidence by destroying and disposing of documents about asbestos products, was filed against Sprinkmann Sons Corporation, Sprinkmann Insulation Inc. and Young Insulation Group of St. Louis. They failed to preserve information about the locations where the products were used and supplied and their manufacturers and wholesalers because they knew the data could be used as evidence in potential civil litigation, according to the suit.

A count of conspiracy was filed against Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Pneumo Abex Corporation because they didn’t disclose the research they had compiled concerning the health risks of working with asbestos-containing products. They conspired with asbestos stakeholders to misrepresent and suppress information about the seriousness of asbestosis disease, specifically to employees who were regularly in contact with the toxin, according to the suit.  

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