Manufacturers' president required to testify at Illinois asbestos trial

Steve Korris Oct. 14, 2010, 8:55am


BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Manufacturers Association president Greg Baise must testify at an asbestos conspiracy trial in Bloomington, though his lawyer is at "a bit of a loss" as to why.

On Oct. 4, McLean County Associate Judge Paul Lawrence ruled that local lawyer James G. Walker could examine Baise before jurors.

Walker and former partner James Wylder regularly examine witnesses from companies they sue, but Walker didn't sue Baise.

"We are at a bit of a loss as to why Mr. Baise and the Illinois Manufacturers Association have been dragged into this," said Baise's lawyer, Bruce Radke of Vedder Price in Chicago.

Walker served a subpoena as trial began Oct. 4, and the manufacturers moved to quash it.

Radke said the manufacturers considered an appeal of Lawrence's ruling but decided against it.

"Mr. Baise will be able to articulate his position and their lack of involvement in this quite well," he said.

In Bloomington asbestos trials, Walker and Wylder aim to prove that 50 to 100 years ago corporations conspired to conceal hazards of asbestos. Liability passes to new owners, so they sue Honeywell, for instance, because it bought a company that bought a company that made brakes for automobiles long ago.

Pneumo Abex, a shell corporation as a remnant of brake maker Bendix, also is regularly sued.

Plaintiffs sue Illinois Central Railroad as successor to Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, which ran track right into an asbestos plant in Bloomington.

And, they sue Owens-Illinois, which stopped using asbestos in products in 1958.

"We had an opportunity to sit and watch Mr. Walker's opening statements," Radke said.

"We had an opportunity to watch him examine a witness," he said. "The theory in and of itself is a bit of a challenge."

Radke said he asked for the date when Baise would be called and didn't get one.

"I would suspect that he would need some advance notice, since he will have to travel from Chicago," he said.

"It just underscores that he is not a party to this case," he said.

Radke said he didn't hear any connection between the manufacturers and the conspiracy in opening statements.

Lawrence will replace retiring Circuit Judge Michael Prall in November.

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Vedder Price
222 N Lasalle St
Chicago, IL 60601

One Michael Owens Way, Perrysburg, OH 43551
Perrysburg, OH 43551

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