On Friday afternoon, a jury in the Northern District of Illinois returned a verdict for defendants Owens-Illinois, Inc. and ExxonMobil, rejecting plaintiff Charles Krik’s claim that his lung cancer developed as a result of a “synergistic effect” between his alleged asbestos exposure and his cigarette smoking. The jury found, as argued by the defendants, that the sole proximate cause of plaintiff’s lung cancer was cigarette smoking. The jury’s finding on sole proximate cause made it unnecessary to reach the questions of whether the defendants were negligent or whether Mr. Krik was contributorily negligent. It was also unnecessary for the jury to reach Owens-Illinois’s government contractor and maritime defenses, in light of the defense verdict on causation.
Mr. Krik, 77 years old, alleged he was exposed to asbestos while he served below deck as a boilerman in the United States Navy from 1954 to 1970, and while he worked as a pipefitter at refineries in Illinois and Indiana from 1970 to the 1990s.
Mr. Krik smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day for 30 years (quitting in 1982) and had alleged significant asbestos exposure for decades.
Mr. Krik’s lawyers called four expert witnesses and argued that a “synergistic” reaction between asbestos and cigarette smoking caused his lung cancer. The trial, which lasted just under two weeks, was presided over by the Honorable Manish Shah. Owens-Illinois was represented by Edward Casmere and Brian Watson of Schiff Hardin LLP. ExxonMobil was represented by Patrick Morris and David Fanning of Johnson & Bell and Jerry Blackwell of Blackwell Burke. Mr. Krik was represented by Robert McCoy, Allen Vaughn, and Daniel Hausman of Cascino Vaughn Law Offices.