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Madison County asbestos: one for the books (O'Connell v. Georgia-Pacific)

Even Madison County juries have their limits it seems.

Anita O'Connell claimed that her mesothelioma came from asbestos from washing her husband's and children's laundry. Perhaps. But none of her three sons who worked for her father whose clothing she washed would testify in support of that. Instead, a fourth son, Michael O'Connell, who didn't work for her husband's plastering business, sought to blame Bondex International and Georgia-Pacific.

The plaintiff claimed the joint compound caused Anita O'Connell's asbestos exposure because she shook her son's clothes before laundering them.

The supplier for the O'Connell plastering business testified that only plaster was sold to the O'Connell business, not joint compound. The supplier also testified that he never carried the Bondex brand.

Michael O'Connell testified he remembered seeing silver Georgia-Pacific cans of joint compound, but that company's cans were not silver during the period O'Connell claimed to have worked with drywall.

Adding chutzpah upon chutzpah, plaintiffs' attorney Charla Aldous of Baron & Budd asked for $10 million in damages for the 84-year-old plaintiff. The jury awarded nothing. (Brian Brueggemann, "Madison County jury rejects woman's plea", Belleville News-Democrat, Mar. 2; Steve Gonzalez, "Jury reaches defense verdict in Madison County trial", Madison County Record, Mar. 2; Friable Thoughts blog, Mar. 2).

Long-time readers may nod knowingly and think of the infamous Baron & Budd witness-coaching memo, which I have posted in full on the Liability Project's "Documents in the News" page (see Feb. 10 entry).

Many many more links after the jump.

Madison County, the tiny county in southern Illinois, has such friendly judges and juries that it ended up with a quarter of the asbestos litigation earlier this decade under Judge Nicholas Byron, before Judge Daniel Stack took over and slowed down the flood by dismissing some of the more ridiculous venue claims that Byron had previously allowed. Defendants would regularly settle, rather than face juries. U.S. Steel once got its gumption up to defend a weak case, but was hit by lawless rulings by Judge Byron and a $250 million verdict that it was forced to settle, perhaps with the help of a sham co-defendant. See also Apr. 22, 2004 and POL Feb. 2, Jan. 19 and Sep. 28, 2004.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.