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Springfield llinois - $2 Million Asbestos Verdict
Former city man blames cancer on products used in odd jobs
By CHRIS DETTRO
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
Posted Aug 17, 2009 @ 11:29 PM
Last update Aug 18, 2009 @ 12:40 AM
A Sangamon County jury last week awarded a formerSpringfieldpostal worker and part-time handyman $2 million at the conclusion of an asbestos-exposure trial.
William Willis, who lived most of his life in the Williamsville area and on Springfield’s north end, was a night-shift U.S. Postal Service employee from 1966 until retiring in 1992. He testified during the 3 /2-week trial before Circuit Judge Pete Cavanagh that he did various odd jobs during the day, including truck and bus driving and home construction and repair in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
Willis alleged in his suit that he had used asbestos-containing pipe manufactured by CertainTeed Corp. and asbestos-containing joint compound made by Bondex International Inc. and Georgia-Pacific Corp., among others. Asbestos was phased out of the products in 1977.
Willis, now 69 and living in Arkansas, alleged that he had developed incurable pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining, as a result of exposure to the asbestos. He said in his suit that the products contained no warnings concerning the asbestos content, and if there were warnings, they were inadequate.
The jury found Bondex International alone liable and awarded Willis $1.5 million in damages and his wife, Sharon Willis, $500,000 for loss of consortium. It found CertainTeed and Georgia-Pacific not to be negligent.
The defendants argued that Willis had used their products decades ago and was mistaken about which products he actually used. Their attorneys also argued that the amount of asbestos in the defendants’ products wasn’t enough to harm, and that there was no known cause for Willis’ mesothelioma.
Other defendants either settled with Willis or were dismissed from the case prior to the verdict.
Stephen Kaufmann of the Springfield office of HeplerBroom LLC, along with other HeplerBroom colleagues, represented Georgia-Pacific, one of the three defendants who remained through trial.
“I think the jury heard a very complex case and returned a verdict that was supported by the evidence and brought justice to Mr. And Mrs. Willis,” said Jack Davis of Davis Law Offices LLC in Springfield, a member of Willis’ legal team.
Davis also praised the way Cavanagh handled the trial.
“The courtroom can be a very tough atmosphere, and when you have a level-headed, even-tempered judge who is fair to both sides, it makes the lawyers’ jobs so much easier,” he said.
Willis’ pretrial motion asking to add a claim for punitive damages was denied.
The jury award is subject to a reduction of $1.4 million due to prior settlement amounts.
Chris Dettro can be reached at 788-1510.
Copyright 2009 The State Journal-Register. Some rights reserved