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October 01, 2004

Asbestos: Illinois's "Lipke rule"

Continuing our summary of highlights from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's excellent recent coverage of asbestos litigation (see our earlier posts here and here): one of the articles in the series (Paul Hampel, "'Lipke rule' is unfair to defendants, many argue", Sept. 19) discusses Illinois's unusual "Lipke rule", named for the plaintiff in a 1987 case, which is powerfully effective in extracting money from defendants. (It is applied in many lower courts, but has never been ruled on by the Illinois Supreme Court.)

Because of Lipke, if only one of 100 defendants in an asbestos case forced a trial, while the other 99 settled, a judge could bar the last defendant from suggesting at trial that one of the other 99 caused the plaintiff's illness...."One reason the Lipke rule is so destructive is that most of the corporations that were most responsible for harming workers in America because of asbestos products are bankrupt - like Johns Manville," said an attorney whose client is frequently named as a defendant in mesothelioma suits.

"Say if the plaintiff worked at the Navy docks and was exposed to Johns Manville products for 30 years. He is - quite frankly - coached by trial lawyers to testify that he once did a home improvement job in his basement using a joint compound purchased at a hardware store.

"So this guy worked a few days in his basement with the joint compound. He worked for 30 years on the docks. But the jury only gets to hear about the joint compound."

The series also includes a "Glossary of terms involving asbestos suits".

Posted by Walter Olson at 02:51 AM | TrackBack (1)




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