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U.S. Steel quickly settled following a $250 million verdict last week favoring a long-time employee who suffers from cancer attributed to asbestos exposure during 31 years of working in the company’s mill in Gary, Ind. The verdict in Illinois is one of two in recent days against corporations that did not mine asbestos or use it as a raw material, but did expose workers by using asbestos-containing products. Whittington v. U.S. Steel, No. 02-L1113 (Madison Co., Ill., Cir. Ct.). A jury in New York awarded $47.1 million to Robert Croteau, 54, who alleged that his exposure to asbestos while employed at power plants owned and operated by Con Edison and Long Island Lighting Co. caused his mesothelioma. Croteau v. Consolidated Edison, No. 118793/01 (New York Co., N.Y., Sup. Ct.). The Illinois verdict was returned in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Nicholas G. Byron, who set an Illinois record for damages the week prior with a $10.1 billion verdict in a class action against Philip Morris USA. That verdict has roiled state legislatures around the country since Philip Morris announced last week that between the verdict and the $12 billion bond the court insists it post to pursue an appeal, it may be forced into bankruptcy. The jury in Madison County, Ill., found that U.S. Steel Corp. failed to warn Roby Whittington, 70, of the risks it knew were associated with inhalation of asbestos fibers. The jury awarded $50 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages to Whittington, who suffers from mesothelioma, an incurable and invariably fatal cancer solely caused by asbestos inhalation. U.S. Steel spokesman Mike Dixon described that case as “an aberration” that should have been handled as a workers’ compensation claim in Indiana. Dixon said the settlement amount was “a fraction of the verdict.” The settlement amount was not disclosed. But plaintiff’s attorney Randall A. Bono, of counsel with the Simmons Law Firm of East Alton, Ill., said the settlement was substantially more than what Whittington would have settled for prior to the verdict. Edward Matushek of Chicago’s Matushek & Associates, who declined comment, represented U.S. Steel. Bono said Whittington’s illness was not compensable under Indiana’s workers’ compensation statute because its onset was many years after the end of his employment in 1981. Mesothelioma is marked by a long latency period after exposure followed by a sudden onset, typically leading to death in two years or less after a rapid deterioration of health. Bono presented evidence that the causal relationship between asbestos inhalation and nonmalignant disease, particularly asbestosis, was established by the mid-1930s. The link between asbestos and a variety of cancers, particularly mesothelioma, was undisputed by the mid-1960s. “We took their own internal documents and showed they were lying about what they knew and when they knew it,” he asserted. The verdict was delivered after 90 minutes of deliberation. The settlement was negotiated over the weekend and paid on March 31, Bono said. Bono said Whittington sued in Illinois rather than Indiana because most of the defendants are based there. All of the other defendants settled except for one trial winner, he said.

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