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Case Law Update: Personal Injuries from Toxic Asbestos Exposure

Dukes v. Pneumo Abex, No. 4-06-0235 (12-29-08) found that in a trial for personal injuries from exposure to asbestos in plaintiff’s decedent’s manufacturing facility, allegedly resulting from conspiracy in which defendant’s predecessor participated in suppressing information about adverse health effects of exposure to asbestos, trial court abused its discretion when it admitted evidence of nolo contendere plea entered by defendant in unrelated price fixing conspiracy with some of the same companies, and when it admitted inflammatory letter written by deceased purchasing director at one of defendant’s plants, who had no responsibility for safety or health and was not spokesperson for defendant. However, although these evidentiary rulings deprived defendant of a fair trial and requires reversal, plaintiff presented sufficient evidence, by inference and circumstantial evidence going beyond parallel conduct, to warrant retrial. This case will have an effect on personal injury cases regarding toxic exposure.