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Name: Randall A. Bono of the Simmons Firm, East Alton, Ill. case: Whittington v. U.S. Steel, No. 02-L1113 (Madison Co., Ill., Cir. Ct.) outcome: Two days after an Illinois jury awarded a dying man $250 million in an asbestos-related lawsuit, the plaintiff, Roby Whittington, 70, settled the suit with U.S. Steel Corp. on March 30 for an undisclosed amount, according to his lawyer, Randall Bono of The Simmons Firm in East Alton, Ill. Bono would not disclose any details regarding the amount, but a U.S. Steel spokesman said the settlement was substantially less than the $50 million in compensatory damages awarded to Whittington, who has mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Whittington claims he contracted the disease while working at U.S. Steel’s mill in Gary, Ind., from 1950 to 1981. The settlement came two days after a Madison County, Ill., jury slapped U.S. Steel with $200 million in punitive damages and $50 million in compensatory damages for failing to inform Whittington about the risk of asbestos exposure. Bono said his client, who initially sought only workers’ compensation benefits from the company, settled the case mainly because of his age and illness. He said Whittington, of Gary, also was concerned about whether the company would be able to pay the entire award. U.S. Steel argued the case should have been handled as a workers’ compensation claim in Whittington’s home state of Indiana rather than in Illinois. Bono said the case took place in Illinois because several of the defendants-companies that supplied asbestos-containing products to the steel mill-were located in Illinois. This is the second such big win for Bono, who several years ago handled what is believed to be the second-largest jury verdict in Madison County. That case, also involving mesothelioma, involved a $34 million judgment against Shell Oil. Bono said a unique element to this asbestos case is that the defendant was not a maker of asbestos, but rather used products containing asbestos in its facilities. That marks a big departure from traditional asbestos suits, he noted, where most defendants either manufacture asbestos or use it in their products. what interested you the most about this case The man. He was just an incredible fellow. He’s 70 years old. His father was a Baptist minister and a farmer. His father died when he was 12 years old, so he had to drop out of school and work the farm. why was the jury so generous The jury was that angry at U.S. Steel. We pretty much demonstrated to the jury that U.S. Steel was not completely truthful about what they knew regarding the cancer hazards of asbestos . . . . They did absolutely nothing to protect these Gary steel workers. They never warned them. They never gave them the protections. They never used any of the hygiene techniques that were ultimately required by [the Occupational and Safety Health Administration]. juries in southern illinois have a reputation for being generous. why I think it’s a reputation that is totally undeserved . . . . Are they overly generous? No. I’m a former judge here and over half of my verdicts on the bench were defense verdicts. but what about plaintiffs’ verdicts, like the million award I think they have a strong sense of right and wrong and when they see somebody who has been horribly wronged like poor Mr. Whittington . . . I think they were incensed and they wanted to send a message not just to U.S. Steel, but to every employer in the country-that you cannot poison your workers. what was your strongest legal argument in this case The one we obviously won on is negligence . . . . When you’ve got half a million employees working with carcinogens they have an obligation to their employees to look it up . . . .We proved they did look it up. They knew it was a carcinogen and made a conscious decision not to do anything because it saved them money and they put profits over people. why did you settle My client is dying. He’d much rather have some money now while he’s still alive then wait five years to find out what’s going to happen on appeal. do you have any advice for lawyers taking on big companies You just got to outwork them. They’ll outspend you. But you got to outwork them. any career high points Getting appointed to the bench and spending four years as a judge in Madison County. And six weeks after I left the bench we tried that [$34.1 million] Hutcheson case against Shell. And we did the Pickering case in ’92 against Owens Corning. We got $10 million. And last fall we whacked a company called Aerojet for $5.1 million in a take-home [asbestos] exposure case.

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