Partners William Connelly and Nicholas Vogelzang battled Ford Motor Company, Honeywell, Dana, Genuine Parts Corporation and John Crane on a case filed for over almost two years in the Daley Center on behalf of their clients. The plaintiff was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in December of 2013 and attributed her disease to asbestos contained in the brake pads and gaskets that were used at the family gas stations they ran in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The defendants attempted a summary judgment twice in the case. The first time they were able to convince the discovery Judge there was no duty to warn the plaintiff of the hazards of asbestos contained within their products. However, the Judge ultimately reconsidered her original ruling and allowed the plaintiff to continue to trial. A new trial date was assigned from January of 2015 to October 2015. In the meantime, the plaintiff succumbed to her disease in March of the same year.
In the case, attorneys Connelly and Vogelzang took on almost 20 lawyers at any given time during pretrial arguments determining what could be argued in front of the jury. After two weeks of hard work on all sides, the plaintiffs survived yet another round of Summary Judgment motions by the defendants and the case was ready for trial. On October 28, 2015 a jury of 12 with two alternates was selected in a whirlwind day. The jury was told to come back Friday for opening arguments.
Friday morning, attorney Nicholas Vogelzang led off the day with a heartfelt appeal to the jury describing who Bertha Winford was and what asbestos she was exposed to that ultimately caused her death. His partner, William Connelly followed up with a stern opening showing the defendants failure to warn of the dangers of asbestos in their products. Each defendant then got up with varying defenses as to why their company should not be held responsible for the death of the plaintiff.
The following week the jury was presented with a cast of experts as to how asbestos causes disease and what was known about the hazards of asbestos as well as the evolving knowledge of the hazards in the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.
After almost a full week of trial in front of the jury, the Judge agreed to help all sides come together and reach a settlement rather than take a risk with a jury verdict. After several hours of negotiation and serious phone conversations with clients, a settlement was reached. The defendants limited their exposure while never admitting any negligence in the case. The plaintiffs children were able to put money aside for their father, who had been the mechanic grinding the asbestos brakes and gaskets. He has suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and is now being cared for in a home.