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Johnson & Bell Secures Not Guilty Verdict in Case Alleging Asbestos Exposure

May 5, 2015

On Friday afternoon May 1, 2015, a jury in the Northern District of Illinois returned a verdict for defendants ExxonMobil and Owens-Illinois, Inc. and rejecting plaintiff Charles Krik’s claim that his lung cancer developed as a result of a “synergistic effect” between his alleged asbestos exposure and his cigarette smoking.  It is one of the few asbestos exposure cases in Northern Illinois tried to a jury verdict.

The jury found that the sole proximate cause of plaintiff’s lung cancer was cigarette smoking. Mr. Krik smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day for 30 years (quitting in 1982) and had alleged significant asbestos exposure for decades between 1954 and the 1990’s.  The jury’s finding on sole proximate cause made it unnecessary to reach the questions of whether the defendants were negligent or whether Mr. Krik was contributorily negligent.

Mr. Krik’s lawyers called four expert witnesses, including Arthur Frank, M.D., Frank Parker, Arnold Brody and Barry Castleman and argued that a “synergistic” reaction between asbestos and cigarette smoking caused his lung cancer. In pre-trial rulings, Judge John Lee barred portions of the proposed medical testimony of plaintiff's experts, Arthur Frank, M.D. and Frank Parker. The judge ruled that the opinion that "each and every exposure contributes to plaintiff's injuries" was inadmissible on Daubert grounds. He did, however, allow Plaintiff to attempt to present admissible causation testimony using a hypothetical question. Ultimately, the trial judge, Judge Shah, ruled that Plaintiff’s proposed hypothetical questions based on the exposure testimony provided in court that resulted in an opinion that the “cumulative exposures” were the cause of his lung cancer was an opinion rooted in the notion that each and every exposure is the cause and therefore, did not pass Daubert grounds.

The trial, which lasted just under two weeks, was presided over by the Honorable Manish Shah. Mr. Krik was represented by Robert McCoy, Allen Vaughn, and Daniel Hausman of Cascino Vaughn Law Offices. ExxonMobil was represented by Patrick Morris and David Fanning of Johnson & Bell and Jerry Blackwell of Blackwell Burke.

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