Illinois Appeals Court Throws Out $80M Award

     SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) – A state appeals court threw out an $80 million punitive damages award against several companies in an asbestos conspiracy case, ruling that there was no proof of a conspiracy.
     McLean County jurors had awarded Charles Gillenwater $40 million from Owens-Illinois and $20 million each from Honeywell International and Pneumo Abex. Gillenwater developed mesothelioma from breathing insulation while working as a pipefitter in the 1970’s.
     After a three day jury trial, Gillenwater was awarded $9.6 million in compensatory damages along with the $80 million award for punitive damages. But in a Sept. 18 opinion, a three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court’s 4th Circuit agreed with McLean County Circuit Judge Scott Drazewski’s decision to erase the punitive damages award.
     “It is difficult to see how two of the defendants, Honeywell and Abex, could be found to have intentionally assisted or encouraged Owens-Corning in its own wrongdoing against Gillenwater, considering that, in the statement of facts in their brief, plaintiffs do not mention that Honeywell and Abex ever interacted with Owens-Corning in anyway,” Justice Thomas Appleton wrote. “Honeywell and Abex appear to be nothing but bystanders, committing wrongs that had nothing to do with Gillenwater.”
     The appeals court also affirmed a summary judgment in the defendants’ favor on a loss of consortium claim filed by Gillenwater’s wife, Donita. The defendants argued they owed no duty to her since she wasn’t married to Gillenwater in the 1970’s when his injuries took place.
     “The material undisputed facts are that Charles Gillenwater was exposed to asbestos in the 1970s, he married Donita Gillenwater in 1987, and there is no evidence he was exposed to asbestos after marrying her,” Appleton wrote. “Under Illinois case law, most notably Monroe, those facts entitled defendants to judgment as a matter of law on Donita Gillenwater’s claims of loss of consortium.”
     Justices James Knecht and John Turner concurred with Appleton.

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