The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the court case Jones v. Pneumo Abex LLC, 2018 IL App (5th) 160239. In this court case, plaintiffs John and Deborah Jones are suing the brake lining company Pneumo Abex and the glass bottle maker Owens-Illinois (“O-I”) for injuries John has suffered due to exposure to asbestos during his career.
John never worked for Pneumo Abex or Owens-Illinois. The reason he and his wife are suing them is because of work the two companies did to hide the dangers of asbestos. In their complaint, the Jones’s relied solely on evidence to support their claim. Their first piece of evidence was that Abex funded a study on asbestos dust. The published report excluded the information about the tumors found in some of the mice. Their second piece of evidence was a 1953 sales agreement in between O-I and Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp (“OCF”). The agreement was for the sale of Kaylo insulation. Their third piece of evidence was of “non-toxic” ads which were first issued by O-I and then later by OCF. Their fifth piece of evidence concerned a unilaterally sponsored Kaylo study, sponsored by O-I. This study involved exposure of Kaylo insulation to lab animals. Their sixth piece of evidence was about directors and stock ownership overlapping with O-I and OCF. The defendants successfully argued that the plaintiff’s evidence was not enough. Pointing to the Supreme Court decision in McClure v. Owens Corning Fiberglas Corp., 188 Ill. 2d 102 (1999), they showed that the plaintiff’s evidence was not legally enough. Specifically, they claimed that the plaintiff’s evidence was not enough to prove a conspiratorial act. The plaintiffs said that on the contrary, there are more issues that should have gone to the jury. The trial court’s decision found fault with O-I and OCF three times. The first was when they withheld information of tumors on mice from the final report of a study. The second was when O-I continued to sell Kaylo insulation, even after they knew it was dangerous as early as 1952. The third time they found fault with O-I was when they failed to mark Kaylo packaging until the late 1960s, even though they knew it was a respiratory hazard. Abex justified themselves about omitting data from a research report. They said omitting the mice study from the Saranac report was insignificant because the report’s leading scientists said it was unimportant. On top of that, under the Fourth District case law, data being cut out of a report is not immediate proof of a conspiracy. They continued to argue that the plaintiffs did not have enough data to prove a conspiracy. The plaintiffs continued to argue that there is more information that could be tried regarding the Saranac report and Kaylo sales. Hopefully, the Illinois Supreme Court decision will resolve some of the long litigation over the possible conspiracy of these companies, court cases holding the defendants liable for things they never made or sold. A former court case has proved the mice data to not qualify as conspiratorial conduct. Because of this the only evidence of a conspiracy, in this case, is parallel conduct, which is not enough by itself to prove a conspiracy. But the Fifth District said this only counted after trial, not in the summary judgment stage, as it is too early in the case to claim this as insufficient. The defendants argued that allowing this to happen would require repetitive trials, which would be wasteful. They claim it would make the civil conspiracy claim too big. Whether or not the Illinois Supreme Court will consider the mice data important remains to be seen. The whole reason John and his wife are suing O-I and OCF is because of a disease John has which is caused by asbestos, a dangerous mineral. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, which is commonly used in construction. John obtained his disease from his construction career, but it’s just as easy to get from asbestos in your home. Think you have asbestos in your home or building? Call us today at (312) 586-8713 for a free quote for asbestos testing and removal.