Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Directed Verdict for Defendant in Asbestos Wrongful Death Lawsuit

As dedicated and seasoned Illinois work injury attorneys, we have seen numerous examples of how an employee can suffer serious injuries as a result of his or her occupation and job duties. One of the most widely discussed examples is situations in which the employee is exposed to asbestos and later develops mesothelioma, a dangerous and potentially fatal medical condition.

In a recent appellate opinion, the decedent spent the majority of his working life finishing drywall. Throughout this career, he utilized a variety of brands of joint compounds that contained asbestos. In 2013, the decedent’s physicians informed him that he developed mesothelioma. The decedent filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the joint compounds that he used during his career. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2014, and his wife became the plaintiff in the litigation. By the time the matter proceeded to trial, only one defendant remained in the proceeding, with the other defendants having been dismissed or entering into settlement agreements.

At some point during trial, the lower court entered a directed verdict in favor of the defendant, finding that no witness could identify how frequently the decedent had used the defendant’s products during his lengthy career. The appellate court referred to case precedent regarding frequency of use matters in asbestos cases, which require a plaintiff to show that the worker worked in an area where the defendant’s product was used frequently and that the employee worked sufficiently close to the area to render him exposed to the product.

Applying this standard to the facts of the case at hand, the court noted that while the witnesses could not describe how frequently the decedent came into contact with the defendant’s product, he could testify regarding the fact that it had been used on some occasions. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s directed verdict and ordered a new trial on the matter. The testimony from witnesses regarding the use of the defendant’s products was sufficient to create an issue of material fact regarding whether the defendant’s product was a substantial factor in the decedent’s disease.

On appeal, the defendant also alleged that it had no duty to warn the plaintiff about the potential risks associated with asbestos. The appellate court rejected this position, citing expert testimony in the record indicating that the dangers of asbestos were widely understood during the 1960s. Accordingly, the appellate court stated that the defendant, as a manufacturer of products containing asbestos, should have been aware of the potential dangers of asbestos inhalation prior to 1965, when the decedent was diagnosed.

If you have been injured during the course and scope of your employment, the compassionate and diligent workers’ compensation lawyers at Therman Law Offices are ready to help you fight for your right to benefits and compensation. We have assisted many employees throughout the region and understand just how stressful this situation can be for you and your family. Our team provides a free consultation so that you can learn more about your legal options and how we may be able to assist you. Call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.

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