A frequent target of asbestos litigation, Crane Co. appears to have substituted counsel with a St. Louis asbestos defense firm in all of its local pending asbestos cases in early January.
Crane Co. substituted attorneys at Edwardsville-based HeplerBroom for attorneys at St. Louis-based Armstrong Teasdale in what appears to be hundreds of pending cases.
Attempts at seeking comment from HeplerBroom were not successful.
Armstrong Teasdale attorney Raymond Fournie confirmed that Armstrong Teasdale was approached by Crane Co. as well as several other local firms before the defendant made the switch. He added that he does not know why Crane Co. decided to substitute counsel.
Fournie said he does not know how many cases Crane Co. is currently litigating or if the defendant retained new counsel in all of its cases or just its local cases.
Although Armstrong Teasdale is a St. Louis firm, Fournie does not believe a change in venue is in the works.
“I can’t imagine why any defendant would want their asbestos cases in St. Louis,” he said.
He added that like any other lawsuit, each case will be analyzed individually and a decision will be made on what venue is in the best interest to Crane Co.
“I haven’t seen any indication that Crane Co. would want to take their cases to St. Louis City Circuit Court,” Fournie said.
Crane Co., a company that supplied mechanical gaskets and valves, is sued in most Madison County asbestos cases and has been the target of two trials in the past five years.
In February 2014, a Madison County jury reached a defense verdict in favor of Crane Co. after a two week trial. Crane Co. had been represented by HeplerBroom.
Brothers Tom King Jr. and Brian King from Tennessee were suing on behalf of their father, Tom King Sr., who died from mesothelioma shortly after his lawsuit was filed January 2013. They were represented by Shrader & Associates.
According to the lawsuit, Tom King was a machinist mate for the United States Navy from 1959-1962 and again from 1965-1969, serving on the USS Forrestal, USS Tallahatchie County and the USS Hollister.
King’s job in the Navy was to change gaskets, repair pumps and repair valves. Part of his job required him to scrape out the dry, baked asbestos from gaskets in order to replace them with new ones. He used a wire brush and a scraper to clean the asbestos from the old gaskets.
He was also exposed to asbestos packing, which was used in valves and pumps as a sealant to prevent leaking.
More recently, plaintiffs Roy and Peggy Bale of Boise, Idaho took Crane Co. to trial in Madison County January 2016. The two-day trial ended in a settlement.
The Bales were represented by Troy Chandler of Chandler McNulty in Houston and the Simmons Firm. HeplerBroom was local counsel for Crane Co.
The complaint stated 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, during trial the parties said Bale was a pipefitter from 1968 until 2012.
Roy Bale alleged he removed and replaced asbestos-containing gaskets and valves manufactured by Crane Co. hundreds of times throughout his career as a pipefitter.
The plaintiff also alleged he removed asbestos-containing mud insulation from the body of Crane and Stockholm valves.