News & Articles

04 August 2015

MADISON COUNTY UPDATE: Judge Stobbs rules against defense in secondary exposure

You may recall that some time ago we reported to you that there was a dichotomy of opinions in Illinois as to whether premises defendants owed the spouses of employees a duty in secondary exposure type cases in asbestos litigation. Recently, Judge Stobbs ended the mystery as to which way the Madison County court would swing on that issue in his written opinion issued in the Madison County Ruling on Secondary Expos case, Ct. No. 13-L-2031. The court appeared to emphasize that it is not necessary that defendant must have foreseen the precise nature of the harm or the exact manner of occurrence but rather that it is sufficient if, at the time of the defendant’s action or inaction, some harm could have been reasonably foreseen.

Though the Illinois Supreme Court side-stepped the issue of whether there is a duty owed to spouses for take home exposures, Judge Stobbs relied on the Simpkins v. CSX Transportation Inc., 358 Ill. Dec. 613 (Ill. 2012) case in stating that “what is considered reasonably foreseeable depends on what information about the nature of asbestos was known at the time of plaintiff’s alleged exposure and, therefore, what information defendant could reasonably be held accountable for knowing.” Simpkins, at 620. As we predicted would happen, the court took advantage of the Supreme Court’s failure to address the duty issue, when it ruled that the defendant’s motion for summary judgement on the issue of whether there’s a duty owed was premature. The court then stated it would leave to the jury the issues of duty of care, breach thereof and plaintiff’s alleged damages. The court also denied defendant’s motion for interlocutory appeal.