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Update: Whittington v. U.S. Steel and Madison County asbestos shenanigans

We've previously been critical of the Whittington v. U.S. Steel case (Overlawyered, Jan. 5, 2004; Sep. 20). Now the U.S. Steel lawyer makes a sensational allegation: it appears one of U.S. Steel's co-defendants was a Madison County company represented by Madison County attorneys, John Crane Inc. John Crane Inc. was kept in the case, where it proceeded to argue against change-of-venue, and moved to strike jurors favorable to the defense; meanwhile, the plaintiff introduced no evidence against this apparently sham defendant. �The court�s allocation of six challenges per side became, in effect, 10-to-two in favor of the plaintiff.� Ed O�Connell of O�Connell & Associates denies an improper relationship with asbestos plaintiffs. (Steve Korris, "Defendant John Crane was plaintiff foil, says attorney", Madison/St. Clair Record, Jun. 10; Steve Gonzalez, "Multi-international John Crane fights to stay in Madison County", Madison/St. Clair Record, Jun. 2; Steve Gonzalez, "Sparks fly in Madison County asbestos trial", Madison/St. Clair Record, Jun. 1).

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an entertaining retelling of a cross-examination of a plaintiff's witness who claims to remember the name of the asbestos-laden joint compound her father used 35 years ago—though she can't remember the brand of paint or any other product her father used then, or even the color of the label of the joint compound. (Paul Hampel, "Defense attorneys grill witness in asbestos trial", May 10). She did testify that the product came in a pail, which was the wrong guess, since it came in a can. The plaintiff himself said he never used Georgia-Pacific products. The jury nevertheless went on to award $500,000 against Georgia-Pacific, which avoids the unjust result because the plaintiff, Willard King, has already settled for well over that amount with Georgia-Pacific's co-defendants. Evan Schaeffer complains about the size of the verdict without noting that there was essentially no evidence that Georgia-Pacific did anything to cause the plaintiff's mesothelioma, or that the plaintiff has already been well compensated in the millions of dollars by other defendants (many of whom, no doubt, were equally innocent). (Paul Hampel, "Defense attorneys revel in $500,000 asbestos award", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 20; Steve Horrell, "Jury award falls far short of request", Edwardsville Intelligencer, May 20).



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.