On September 18, 2013, the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois upheld the trial court’s granting of defendants’ motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on plaintiff’s conspiracy claims in Gillenwater v. Honeywell et al, 2013 IL App (4th) 120929. Plaintiff Charles Gillenwater filed suit for his mesothelioma from asbestos exposure in McLean County, Illinois against defendants, Honeywell International, Inc., Owens-Illinois, Inc., and Pneumo Abex, LLC for civil conspiracy with one another to conceal the respiratory dangers of asbestos. Gillenwater alternatively alleged that Owens-Illinois entered into the same conspiracy with a nonparty, Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation, the manufacturer of Kaylo asbestos-containing insulation to which he was exposed during his career as a pipefitter. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in Gillenwater’s favor and against the three defendants, awarding plaintiff compensatory damages of $9.6 million and also awarding him punitive damages in the amounts of $20 million against Honeywell, $40 million against Owens-Illinois, and $20 million against Abex. The trial court granted the defendants’ post trial motions, and vacated the jury award.
In addressing the conspiracy claims against Owens-Illinois (involving non-party OCF), the court also discussed the issue of legal duty, and stated that a manufacturer owes no duty to warn of a product similar to its own but manufactured by someone else. The court noted that: “[i]t would be unfair to impose liability on a manufacturer for a defect in a product unless the manufacturer had the opportunity to avoid liability by stopping the assembly line that produced that particular product.”
See text of the full opinion here. (PDF opens in a new window.)