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May 27, 2005

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» Update: Whittington v. U.S. Steel and Madison County asbestos shenanigans from PointOfLaw Forum
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 ... [Read More]

» Update: Whittington v. U.S. Steel and Madison County asbestos shenanigans from PointOfLaw Forum
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 ... [Read More]

Comments

Stan

What a bitch. Thats going to be an interesting post trial process.

Jerry Carmody (paralegal)

Did the juror in the case you write about who worked on Maag's campaign reveal that during jury selection? No.

hardway

The article concerning the unbelievably callous juror only proves that the misleading propaganda from the so-called tort "reformers" is taking root with the unsophisticated citizenry. The carefully orchestrated media programs of the insurance industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have now convinced many people that lawsuits are ruining the country.
The plaintiff in the case is going to suffer a long and painful death from mesothelioma, a relatively rare form of lung cancer that can ONLY be caused by exposure to asbestos. Moreover, it is now beyond dispute that the asbestos companies knew for decades that asbestos was a dangerous product, but continued to sell asbestos without warnings.

Amazingly, this cold-hearted woman not only goes partying with the defense lawyers right after the trial to celebrate the "victory", she has the audacity to brag that she convinced the other jurors to award only nominal damages for the anticipated medical expenses of the suffering plaintiff. My how proud she must be!!

I can only hope that this juror or a member of her family does not suffer catastrophic injuries as the result of a defective product or medical malpractice. If so, I suspect her views on tort reform would dramatically change. For her sake, I hope she doesn't end up with cold, unsympathetic and callous jurors like her.

Jerry (again)

Hardway: here's a quote from the story.

Another juror at the bar and grill, Erin Sander, 21, had proposed a $5 million award to King.

"I thought that Bondex was very negligent," she said. "I was upset that we didn't give him more."

It should be clear that the woman who you accuse of "partying with the defense lawyers" was merely enjoying a drink amongst lawyers and several jurors--some of whom were pro-defense, some who were pro-plaintiff in inclination.

The Edwatdsville, site of the trial is not the biggest place (although it is quite a nice town). The bar this group was at is the biggest within walking distance to the courthouse and was simply the most obvious choice. If the boys from Wise & Julian and Texas had "won," they would have been at the same place.

By the way, it's almost a certainty that asbestos caused the meso. But whose asbestos was it? Shouldn't a plaintiff have to prove that they were at least around a product before they hold the manufacturer liable? The plaintiff in this case couldn't do that.

hardway (in response to jerry)

Jerry: There is no indication that the other juror mentioned in the article, Erin Sanders, was actually sitting at the same table with any of the attorneys in the case. If you have ever been to Laurie's Place (I have), you would know that it is a very large establishment, and the reporter probably found Erin Sanders far away from counsel. In any event, she certainly did't give a "toast" to trial counsel and congratulate them. Pehaps, more importantly, she did not base her verdict on improper extraneous matters that had no relevance. Your favorite juror admitted that her verdict was based on the bad reputation of Madison County and that she was influenced by a prior high jury award in another Madison County asbestos case. Congratualtions, you and your tort reformer cohorts are successfully duping the masses.
As for the product identification issue, the plaintiff identified 3 specific defendants to whom his asbestos exposure could be attributed. The jury obviously took product identification into consideration because they exonerated Georgia-Pacific and found Bondex and RPM liable. Thus, even your hero on the jury was convinced that exposure to Bondex and RPM asbestos was the cause of the plaintiff's deadly disease

Jerry

Hardway: The article doesn't say what caused my purported "hero" to come to the conclusion she did. All it says is that previous verdicts and the reputation of Madison County was "on her mind." What does that mean? We simply don't know. It could mean that she was predisposed to side with the defendants no matter the testimony. It could mean that she saw a case where the plaintiff's had little factual support and thought that this verdict, while based on proper evidence, would also send a message to the community. Who knows?

But since you can read minds, let's suppose it is true that my underhanded "hero" put on her right-thinking cap and was clear-headed enough to balance the testimony on product identification.

How is a $500,000 verdict "nominal"? In the context of what greedy Barry Julian wanted from the jury, yes, $500,000 is nominal. And in the context of previous jury awards this is nominal. But it seems to me that this will fairly compensate King for his medical bills and for the pain and suffering he will endure in a fairly swift death (unfortunately, or maybe mercifully).

A final thought. Plaintiffs deserve their fair day in court, just as everyone does. And these meso plaintiffs are true victims. They deserve counsel looking out for their best interest rather than a group of jackals looking to make sure they end up in the black.

hardwat

Jerry: Certainly you must be jesting! I assume you are aware that jurors are supposed to consider only the evidence presented in the courtroom, and not base their deliberations or verdict on "previous verdicts and the reputation of Madison County". To suggest these issues were merely "on her mind" and did not influence her verdict is simply stretching credulity. These extraneous and improper issues were "on her mind" enough that she literally bragged about these matters to defense counsel and a newspaper reporter minutes after the verdict was rendered.
Also, you are one cold-hearted son-of-a-gun. (I actually have much stronger language for you, but chose not to express my true feelings for you and your ilk in deference to Evan). If you think dying of mesothelioma is a "fairly swift death" and is in any way "merciful", you are pathetically wrong. I can only hope you don't die in the same agonizing way. If you do, I hope it is the result of the gross negligence of a corporation or an incompetent doctor. I also hope that when you and your loved ones try to seek just compensation from our court system, you get a jury that is equally as hateful and contemptuous as you are.

Jerry II

Listen, every juror has thoughts, feelings, and experiences going into deliberation. Yes, of course the should only consider matters in evidence and I'm sure the overwhelming majority attempt to do so.

But those experiences and thoughts creep in to decisions--whether they are wanted or not.

How else do you explain the large verdicts that jurors awarded in prior asbestos cases? These jurors were people that were probably predisposed to thinking that industry and corporations were out to do whatever necessary to make a quick buck. Therefore, they sought to punish the companies with actual damage awards that were in no way related to the damages suffered by the plaintiff.

Now things swing the other way and some people complain. Fine. If the jurors are so easily influenced, as the cynics believe, then let the trial attorneys start talking more about why the corporations are deceitful and why we should crack down on them. That went over well for Maag. People generally don't like trial attorneys when they start talking about evil corporations (who might also employ people's own son, daughter, or spouse). But if its necessary for them to step up to unpoison the public--let them.

I have total sympathy for meso victims. It is a horrible disease and that is why I used the word merciful to describe death. Maybe that word was poorly chosen.

But they usually die in one to two years. Medical expenses and pain and suffering for two years? Hard to put a price on it but $500,000 sounds about right--especially in light of conflicting testimony about exposure.

Hardway, I would like to meet you in dark alley so I could beat you back into a state where you can comprehend the English language--that's after you get you mouth off Julian's ______.

mythago

How is a $500,000 verdict "nominal"?

That's nominal. Pain and suffering (oops, can't use those words anymore, tort reformers will eat me), medical bills, loss of consortium, lost wages, home services, loss of survivorship benefits, loss of pension income...

These jurors were people that were probably predisposed to thinking that industry and corporations were out to do whatever necessary to make a quick buck.

Now who's mind-reading?

Perhaps the jurors were presented with evidence of how thorougly the major players in the asbestos industry covered up the extent of the damage their products did and that, in fact, they did whatever was necessary to make a quick buck.

Tort-reform exaggerations, by the way, contribute to frivolous lawsuits. There are plenty of people who, on being told that a lawsuit is an easy lottery ticket, figure they might as well buy theirs.

Aaron

If I recall correctly, the juror was self-impressed by her ability to talk the jury out of issuing a verdict which she believed would have made the family "rich", as opposed to just covering the cost of care and medical treatment - "We wanted to give Mr. King enough money to get him through the rest of his life, but we didn't think the rest of his family should become millionaires over it". "Nominal" seems to be a fair descriptor.

"Hardway, I would like to meet you in dark alley so I could beat you back into a state where you can comprehend the English language--that's after you get you mouth off Julian's ______." Enough public BDSM - get a room.

One of the best ways for a defendant to get a jury to award a big verdict is to lie to them, and/or to be revealed to have engaged in a prolonged history of lies and deceit. That tends to make jurors angry. Could anything like that have happened in relation to asbestos disease?

Matt

There's one funny thing about Hampel's statement about how awesome defense counsel is. She could almost certainly not afford to hire him, so it does her absolutely no good that he's "awesome."

One (although there are others) criticism I have of the efforts to combat the tort reform movement is that no one points out the fact that this doesn't make it harder for companies to get lawyers. Just ordinary people like Ms. Hampel. AIG has over 700 law FIRMS on retainer. Yet people think tort reform will benefit them. As if when they're hurt those massive firms with the Fortune 500 clients are all the sudden going to be interested in their car wreck case with $25,000 in medicals, much less their med mal case.

Frustrating.

mythago

Oh, Aaron, I forgot to tell you about a recent trial our firm handled, with a six-figure verdict for the plaintiff. I accidentally volunteered to go down and 'be a reader' for the trial attorney, i.e. they had a transcript that needed to be read into the record, so I played the part of the 75-year-old retired manufacturing executive, testifying on behalf of the defendant company. (Stop laughing.)

One part of the testimony centered on the defendant's claim that it never sold a particular type of asbestos-containing material. The plaintiff's attorney in the original trial produced a copy of the defendant's catalog, printed at the time the plaintiff would have used its products. Said catalog told buyers that [the asbestos-containing products] were available and the company could furnish them to customers as a special order.

When asked about this, the witness stated that his company had never sold those products. They merely "furnished them at customers' request."

I don't think that played so good with the jury.

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