Five Cancer Victims Share Multimillion Settlement

Lawyers in an asbestos case involving five victims of a deadly disease settled a case Friday in which the plaintiffs were asking for a reported $100 million.

The victims all suffer from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining surrounding the lungs. The condition is almost always fatal, say lawyers specializing in asbestos cases.

Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron announced the settlement Friday, a day after opening arguments were presented to the jury.

The five plaintiffs were all people who worked around automobiles or their relatives who breathed in asbestos used in making brakes, said Randall Bono, on of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

The use of the substance as an insulator and fire retardant reached a peak in the 1960s, but the diseases for which asbestos is responsible may take years to develop, attorneys specializing in such cases say.

Doctors say cases of lung cancer and cancer of the lining surrounding the lungs may take 15 to 60 years to appear.

“It causes a horrible, horrible death,” said Bono, a former Madison County associate judge, and attorney with Simmons Hanly Conroy of Wood River.

The plaintiffs were also represented by W. Mark Lanier of Houston. He said the parts of the settlement would also apply to other asbestos clients he represents all across the country.

The lawyers said they cannot reveal the terms of the settlement, but in a story carried by a financial news service, company chief executive Dave Cote was quoted as saying the plaintiffs were asking for $100 million.

Bono would only say that the company met the plaintiffs’ demand in the suit.

The brakes were made by Bendix Corp., a former Honeywell unit. Honeywell’s lawyer said in court Thursday that the brake pads could not have produced enough asbestos dust to cause the illness.

Honeywell was represented by Dennis Dobbels and Nicole Behnes, both of St. Louis.

The plaintiffs were Joseph Trocki, Louise McDole on behalf of her late husband, Richard McDole, Phil Hawley, Arlene Olander and Chris Simms.

Bono said all the plaintiffs were mechanics, friends or relatives of mechanics or worked around automobiles.

“Chris Simms’ dad was an auto mechanic. He got sick because his dad hugged him,” Bono said. He said Simms as a youngster ran up to his father and hugged him when his father can home from work in his overalls. “You can imagine how his father feels,” Bono said. The father did not become ill, he said.

He said the disease causes a painful death in the people that contract it.

Hawley, former auto mechanic, has had a lung removed, and the cancer has spread to the linings of his abdomen and heart.

Bono told the jury after the settlement that justice was done in the case. He praised the Madison County court system, which has come under fire recently for being a “plaintiffs’ paradise.”

“There are very few places in the country these people can go to get justice and this is one of them,” he said. “Don’t ever believe there is any such thing as safe asbestos. It’s not true.”