William Willis, 69, worked as a United States postal worker from 1966 through 1992, when he retired. He also worked as a handyman, where he was frequently exposed to construction applications which contained asbestos.
Willis alleged that pipes and joint compounds manufactured by Bondex International Inc. and other companies did not include warnings of the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure. The defendants stated the amount of asbestos in their products was not enough to provide sufficient warnings about the risks in handling asbestos.
Asbestos use was widespread during the industrial revolution when it was frequently utilized as insulation in the United States. During the early part of the 20th century, asbestos was commonly used in pipes, gaskets, ceilings, drywall and flooring.
The mineral's innate resistance to fire and its highly durable qualities made it an ideal choice for manufacturers. Many construction materials that once used asbestos began to phase out use of the mineral in 1977, when the public became aware of the dangers associated with asbestos.
Workers in automotive repair, construction, shipbuilding and industrial positions were frequently placed at risk of asbestos exposure that may lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma.
Affecting the linings of the heart, lungs and stomach, mesothelioma is incurable and it may take a patient up to 50 years to demonstrate symptoms of the cancer. In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos exposure significantly increases the risk of developing lung, kidney and larynx cancer.
After much deliberation, Sangamon County jurors found Bondex liable for Willis' asbestos-related illness and awarded him $1.5 million and his wife $500,000 for loss of consortium. Other defendants in the lawsuit settled with Willis prior to the verdict.
"I think the jury heard a very complex case and returned a verdict that was supported by the evidence and brought justice to Mr. and Mrs. Willis," said a member of Willis' legal team.
Additional information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure may be found through the Mesothelioma Cancer Center.