Resources for Patients and their Families

Appellate Court Affirms Decision That Plaintiff's Asbestos Exposure Claim Was Unproven

Rick Kornak provides sharp news and insightful articles for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Rick Kornak

January 07, 2015

Bloomington, Illinois - Referring to the expert testimony of Arthur Frank, head of the environmental and occupational health department at Drexel University, the Fourth District Appellate Court affirmed a McLean County court’s verdict in an asbestos personal injury case. For 45 years, Mr. Frank has researched the respiratory health effects of asbestos exposure; however, the nature of his testimony could have confused jurors.

The case involved plaintiff Carol Holloway, a former employee at the Eureka vacuum cleaner factory, who claimed to have developed asbestosis as a result of on-site exposure to the toxin. Ms. Holloway alleged that she was exposed to asbestos through contaminated insulation that was delivered by Sprinkmann Sons, a now-defunct entity that did business with Eureka during Ms. Holloway’s tenure in the 1960s and ’70s.

The ambiguity of Mr. Frank’s testimony stemmed from the difficulty in measuring the levels of exposure that could subsequently result in the development of an asbestos-related disease. Mr. Frank acknowledged that exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, is impossible to avoid, and that everyone experiences some level of exposure. He also stated that a “threshold” exists, and that crossing that threshold can lead to respiratory illnesses, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma. The problem, he said, was in identifying that threshold and pinpointing the exposure’s attribution. “Nobody really knows the dose,” Mr. Frank said in his testimony, “but everybody agrees that it takes relatively a lot of asbestos to give you asbestosis.”

Using terminology like “relatively a lot” led jurors in the McLean County court to side with the defendant, Sprinkmann Sons. Following an appeal, the appellate court agreed with the lower court’s assessment, finding that Ms. Holloway had not proven her claim, and that one could only speculate that the plaintiff’s disease was the result of exposure at the Eureka factory.

In explaining the appellate court’s decision, Justice Thomas Appleton wrote, “On the one hand, [Mr. Frank] testified it took ‘relatively a lot’ of asbestos to give you asbestosis, and he was unable to say how much ‘relatively a lot’ was. On the other hand, he testified that when someone had asbestosis, each and every exposure to any asbestos product had to be regarded as a cause. That seems to mean that if someone, by exposure to an undisturbed asbestos product, breathed no greater quantity of asbestos fibers than the person would have breathed in a pure state of nature, say, when hiking in the mountains, that product nevertheless must be regarded as one of the causes of the person’s asbestosis.” Thus, Justice Appleton concluded, a paradox was presented to the McLean County jurors, in which there was no proof that the plaintiff’s exposure threshold had been crossed through her employment at Eureka.

Resources for Mesothelioma Patients and Their Families

Search the News:

Search the News

Upcoming Events

October 15, 2017
Yokohama, Japan

International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) 18th World Conference on Lung Cancer

“The IASLC 18th World Conference on Lung Cancer will take place from October 15–18, 2017 at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center. Medical doctors, scientists, nurses, health professionals, government officials, partners from the industry, health advocacy groups and patients will come together in order to obtain and exchange information on advances in the management of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies, while considering both global and regional aspects. ”

November 04, 2017
Atlanta, GA

American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting

“The APHA brings together people at the global and national levels, including past surgeon generals and heads of health organizations around the world to educate leaders in public health, including professors and deans from the leading public health schools and programs. For more information, please visit the APHA's website below.”