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Rodarmel v. Pneuma: Mesothelioma Conspiracy Verdict Overturned

Plaintiffs in the Rodarmel v. Pneumo case had alleged that numerous companies conspired to suppress important information regarding the health hazards of asbestos. ussenategavel.jpg

Now, a split panel of justices with the Illinois Fourth district Appellate Court has reversed a lower court’s nearly-$18 million verdict, which had sided with those plaintiffs.

Boston mesothelioma attorneys understand that the plaintiff may appeal to the state’s high court.

The appellate court ruled there was not sufficient evidence presented to prove that Pneumo-Abex, Honeywell International and other companies engaged in a conspiracy to hide the dangerous health effects of asbestos exposure from both workers and consumers.

A district court had ruled otherwise, and the fact that the appellate court was so divided on this issue shows that this was not a clear-cut victory for the defendants.

The original case stems from a lawsuit filed by a female former employee of a company that manufactured products made with asbestos. She worked there for two years in the late 1960s. During that time, she inhaled asbestos fibers that were manufactured by Honeywell, Abex and others.

Decades later, she was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, and sought damages as a result.

Her lawsuit contends that corporate administrators at these companies all conspired to falsely assert that asbestos exposure was safe when they knew, in fact, it was not. She boosted her claims with evidence that Abex and eight other companies worked to conceal the results of an industry-funded study that showed the devastating effects of asbestos on mice; namely, that rampant cancers and malignant tumors were discovered after exposure.

Two years after the chief researcher of that study died, the laboratory sent the final report to Johns-Manville, one of the companies that was a primary supplier of asbestos to Abex (and one of nine companies that had funded the study).

But rather than acting on that study by pulling asbestos from its products, these companies instead had the study published – without any reference to the cancer.

This evidence resulted in a 2010 county court verdict to the plaintiff for $17.8 million, split between Honeywell and Abex.

The two companies appealed that decision, alleging there had been multiple legal deficiencies.

The justices for the majority ended up overturning the original decision on the basis that the lower court had erred in failing to grant a number of motions filed by the defense. The dissenting justices disagreed, issuing a five-page opinion to this effect.

The appellate justices based their decision on earlier case law established in McClure v. Owens, which found that in order for a plaintiff to prove that an agreement and subsequent act resulted in consequences worthy of legal action, they would need to prove that the act was done both knowingly and intentionally.

Still, the justices contended that the plaintiff in the current case presented more evidence than in McClure, but apparently not enough to meet that legal threshold.

This case further underscores the need for mesothelioma victims to turn to attorneys who have proven their skill and success in the courtroom.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Ill. court reverses $17.8M asbestos verdict, Sept. 5, 2012, By Bethany Krajelis, LegalNewsline
More Blog Entries:
Macias v. Saberhagen Holdings, Inc. – Can Respirator Companies Be Held Liable for Mesothelioma? Aug. 18, 2012, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog