Foundation Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Prominent Scientists in Illinois Asbestos Case

The Foundation today filed an amicus brief on behalf of several prominent scientists urging the Illinois Court of Appeal in Coyne v. Archer Daniels Midland to affirm a trial courts grant of summary judgment to defendants where plaintiff’s expert asserted that even exposure to a single fiber of asbestos can be a substantial contributing cause of pleural mesothelioma.

In this case the plaintiff sued several manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos containing air conditioning system components and the owners or lessees of premises in which HVAC equipment plaintiff’s decedent worked on were located, alleging that decedent developed mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos released into the air when he repaired that equipment.

The Circuit [trial] Court granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment, finding that the expert testimony proffered by plaintiff’s expert, based on the "every exposure" theory, did not satisfy the frequency, regularity, and proximity and the substantial factor tests established under Illinois law with respect to any defendant. Although the decedent worked for many years as an air conditioning and ventilation system repairman, there were no records or other admissible evidence to establish who manufactured the equipment he repaired at any particular location, the nature of the repairs, whether decedent was in fact exposed to asbestos during those repairs, or the type and volume of asbestos fibers to which he was exposed or the source of those fibers.

Moreover, as we argue, the single fiber hypothesis is unproven and untested, and has not even advanced to the level of a generally accepted theory and is speculative. Courts should not accept unproven and untestable theories as evidence. Scientific methodology is based on generating hypotheses and testing them to see if they can be falsified; this methodology is what distinguishes science from other fields of inquiry, and the single fiber theory has not been validated through testing.

Plaintiff’s medical expert had no information regarding the type(s) of asbestos to which plaintiff was exposed, and no information about the type(s) of asbestos used by the various product defendants or present at the various locations of the premises defendants at which he worked or the extent of exposure to each type of asbestos. Moreover, because plaintiff’s expert had no information about the types of asbestos to which the decedent was exposed, he did not take into account the differences in carcinogenic potency for mesothelioma causation between the three major commercial asbestos types which has been known and generally accepted for almost 50 years.

To see the Foundations brief, please click here.