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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Chicago Area Asbestos Litigation History

After starting out in big law, Terry Johnson changed his practice to become a Chicago-area plaintiff’s lawyer focused on asbestos cases. His website provides a significant account of history of Chicago-area asbestos-litigation history. Although the history is Terry-centric (as one would expect), it still provides an interesting review of the Chicago’s asbestos litigation past.

Of special note for me, Terry’s asbestos history begins with the same case that started my asbestos years – the Edward Krull case in federal court before Milton Shadur, a well-regarded and perhaps even legendary Chicago judge. Although the entire case ultimately settled, Judge Shadur influenced the course of Illinois asbestos-litigation by writing a post-settlement opinion explaining why he had previously denied Celotex’s motion for summary judgment on punitive damages. Celotex protested the post-settlement ruling and appealed to the 7th Circuit, but lost based on the principles related to nunc pro tunc orders.


"Terry Johnson has been representing union men and women who have been catastrophically injured from exposure to asbestos since 1983.

During the summer of 1983 Terry met Ed Krull, a Chicago Asbestos Worker who had been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma. Terry met Ed through Ed’s son, Tom, when Terry was volunteering as a boxing referee for the Chicago Park District. Tom was one of the boxing coordinators for the Park District. Less than six months later, Terry filed a lawsuit on Ed’s behalf in Federal District Court in Chicago. Because of Ed’s failing health, Terry also requested – – and received – – an accelerated trial date. With a trial team of Ron Motley, Tom Hart and Terry Johnson, jury selection began in April of 1985. Minutes before opening statements were to begin at trial, the asbestos manufacturers met the family’s settlement demands and settled the first asbestos workers case brought to trial in Federal Court in Chicago.

Shortly thereafter, the leadership of the Chicago Asbestos Workers asked Terry if he would coordinate a medical screening for their membership. For successive weekends from February to April 1986, Terry guided over 600 Chicago Asbestos Workers and their spouses through a screening at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The screening detected early-stage cancer in some members, while a significant number of Local 17 members over the age of 50 were diagnosed with asbestos-related lung disease. Many of the members’ wives were also shown to have asbestos-related lung disease just from exposure to asbestos dust in washing their husband’s work clothes over the years.

Terry was later asked to represent members of various building trade unions who similarly suffered from asbestos disease: Pipefitters, Boilermakers, Sheetmetal Workers, and Electricians to name a few. He would also come to represent Chicago school teachers and even a prominent Chicago architect who contracted mesothelioma from being exposed to asbestos in schools. As his asbestos practice continued to grow, Terry teamed up with other trial counsel to create a core group of experienced trial lawyers who would assist in bringing mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis cases to verdict or settlement. These team members include the following: Colleen Hickey, Tom Brennan, Gina Pallafox, Paul McCarthy, Pat Bradley, Kevin Conway, Neal O’Connor, Todd Carcelli, Requel Gibson, and Rich Murphy, to name a few.

Case Studies

The following are some of the major cases and accomplishments of Terry and his team of trial lawyers in Chicago Asbestos Litigation:

Ed Krull v. Keene Corp. et al, No. 83 C 9635,

Federal District Court, Chicago

This was the first Asbestos Workers case to go to trial in Federal Court in Chicago. This mesothelioma case was also the first in Chicago to introduce asbestos fiber analysis from a post mortem exam to prove occupational exposure to asbestos.

Local 17, Chicago, Asbestos Workers Medical Screening:

Organized Asbestos Medical Screening for 494 members and 117 spouses

Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago

February to April 1986

This was a groundbreaking medical screening for the largest Asbestos Workers Local in the United States. Based on the data from this screening, a peer-reviewed medical article was published regarding the spouses that were diagnosed with asbestos-related disease.

To read the medical article written about the Chicago Asbestos Workers Medical Screening, click on Asbestos Screening Article.

Dick Gaylord v. Keene Corp. et al, No. 86 C 4524,

Federal District Court, Chicago

This was the first jury verdict entered in favor of an Asbestos Worker in Federal District Court in Chicago. This case involved asbestos-induced lung cancer. Asbestos fiber analysis of lung tissue was also used in this case to prove that the lung cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos.

Troy Barnes v. Keene Corp. et al, No. 88 C 3223,

Federal District Court, Springfield, Illinois

This mesothelioma case of a Local 17 Asbestos Worker who worked in Springfield ended in a successful verdict for the plaintiff. This case was the first Illinois case ever to admit an ex-parte, video-taped dying declaration in an asbestos case.

Ed Grant v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., et al., No. 83 L 12440,

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Ed Grant’s case was the first asbestos case in Chicago to seek damages from a "fear of cancer" claim. Psychological testimony was introduced at trial which prompted a beneficial settlement. This case was also the first in Chicago to demand and receive a "cancer waiver," which allowed Ed to return to court if he later contracted an asbestos-induced cancer. Ultimately, 14 years later, Ed did contract asbestos-induced lung cancer and was able to file a subsequent claim.

Bob Sullivan v. Armstrong World Industries. et al, No. 86 L 07256,

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Attorneys Pat Bradley, Tom Hart, and Terry Johnson brought this case to trial. Bob had an advanced case of asbestosis that was only detected with advanced CT scans. A diffuse pleural thickening (as thick as an orange rind) had masked the asbestosis or scarring on the inside of the lung from a routine chest x-ray. This case was the first in Chicago to place the primacy of High Resolution CT Scans (HRCT) in the diagnosis of asbestosis.

Cornelius Mulligan and 187 Asbestos Workers v. Owens Corning et al., 87 L 27415,

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

This case established the Deferred Asbestos Docket in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Connie Mulligan was the son of Hugh Mulligan, long-time head of the Chicago Asbestos Workers union. As Terry’s client, Connie – – along with 187 other Asbestos Workers – – consented to have his non-malignant case placed on a "Deferred Asbestos Docket." This docket would insure that a worker would not be forced to trial before the full extent of his asbestos-related injury became apparent. The petition to establish a Deferred Asbestos Docket was joined by Kevin Conway of Cooney and Conway, and numerous asbestos defendants.

Jack Healy v. Armstrong World Industries, et al, No. 83 L 21031,

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Pat Bradley and Terry Johnson tried Jack Healy’s asbestos case to verdict. This was the first case in Chicago to award punitive damages against Owens Corning. A computer-generated, 3-D lung model was introduced at trial – – a first in Chicago courts – – made from HRCT scans. The jury assessed a punitive award of $1,000,000, which was another "first" in Chicago.

In re: Consolidated 6 Mesothelioma Cases v. Owens Corning, et al., No. 93 L 1412

Veronica O’Shea, Mark Cunningham, Sr., Thomas J. Daly,

Lou Georgopoulos, Rich Nelson, and Rich Staack

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

This was the first case in Chicago to consolidate 6 mesothelioma cases for a single trial. It set the stage to force the defendants to offer a true "group settlement" with the consent of 13 other of Terry’s asbestos clients. Thus, one consolidated case of mesothelioma clients forced the resolution of many other individual cases that would not otherwise have been able to timely settle.

Total Group Settlement: $15.2 million.

In re: Consolidated 5 Asbestosis Cases, v. Owens Corning, No. 98 L 3852,

Mike Lavin, Bill Lindsey, John Conlon, Gene Heavlin, Vern Sias

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

In a similar way, this was the first group settlement of serious asbestosis cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Chicago). The 5 consolidated cases, seeking compensatory and punitive damages, were able to force a timely settlement of 195 other cases.

Total Group Settlement: $21.3 million.

Ken Fowler v. Pittsburgh-Corning, No. 88 L 22721

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Terry Johnson and Pat Bradley tried this asbestosis case to verdict. The trial of this Chicago Asbestos Worker resulted in the largest verdict ever entered against Pittsburgh Corning Corporation in Chicago for advanced asbestosis. A few weeks after the trial, Pittsburgh Corning filed for bankruptcy. Because of this $3.4 million judgment, the estate of Mr. Fowler was one of the largest asbestos creditors of Pittsburgh Corning. As a result of the size of the verdict, Terry was placed on the Asbestos Creditors Committee. Unfortunately, 10 years after the Fowler verdict, this multi-billion-dollar bankruptcy has still not been finalized for thousands of asbestos victims.

Ray Pigozzi v. U.S. Gypsum et al., No. 98 L 04457 (Chicago Architect – Mesothelioma)

Joe McCarthy v. U.S. Gypsum et al., (Chicago School Teacher – Mesothelioma)

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

The cases of Ray Pigozzi and Joe McCarthy proceeded to trial on the same date. Ray was a celebrated Chicago architect whose firm, OWP&P, had over 200 professionals on staff. Ray was exposed to asbestos from his work in designing and constructing schools in and around Chicago from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Joe, on the other hand, was a school teacher who was exposed to asbestos in Chicago inner-city schools during the 1960’s. Both Ray and Joe contracted mesothelioma, a cancer only caused by exposure to asbestos. Because of their unique market share in selling asbestos to schools, U.S. Gypsum was the target defendant in both of these cases.

Pittsburgh Corning Bankruptcy, No. 00-22876,

U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

Terry was Appointed to the Asbestos Creditors Committee, 2000 to present.

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators, Consultant to General President Jim Grogan and International Vice President Terry Lynch

Re: Proposed National Asbestos Legislation

The F.A.I.R. Act of 2006 (Fairness in Asbestos Injury Recovery)

Re: Early Detection Screening of Lung Cancer

and Establishment of Asbestos Tissue Bank

Ricky Cramer v. Borg-Warner Corp., et al., No. 08 L 00928

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Terry and his staff compiled a comprehensive history of Ricky’s asbestos exposure while he worked as a young man in a Borg-Warner plant making asbestos brake pads and clutch assemblies. With the settlement team of Kevin Conway and his firm, Cooney and Conway, this case received a record award from a brake manufacturer.

Marty Crinion v. Rapid American Corp., et al., No. 10 L 06730

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Marty Crinion, a former U.S. Marine boxer, was a Local 17, Chicago, Asbestos Worker just like his father and his older brother John. Marty developed mesothelioma from exposures to asbestos he had growing up in the house of an asbestos worker and from his own work exposure before and after the 1970’s."

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