James Wylder and Lisa Corwin of the Bloomington law firm Wylder Corwin Kelly LLP were the lawyers representing two plaintiffs, Jim Smith and Mary Hernandez, Administrator of the Estate of John Nafziger, deceased, in a 3 week trial in which a McLean County jury returned a verdict. The jury found in favor of Jim Smith against the Illinois Central Railroad Company and returned damages in the amount of $1,371,184.05. The jury also found in favor of Mary Hernandez, Administrator of the Estate of John Nafziger, deceased, in the amount of $384,146.98, against defendant, Illinois Central Railroad Company.
Jim Smith began working for the GM&O Railroad (a predecessor to the Illinois Central Railroad Company) at its shops and rail yard on Bloomington’s west side in 1955 and was exposed to asbestos from various materials including asbestos rope, asbestos insulations, asbestos brakes, asbestos gaskets/packing and other asbestos materials until 1958 when he left his employment. He developed asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) from his exposures to asbestos.
John Nafziger worked for the GM&O from 1949-50 and again from 1969-72. He also worked at the rail yards on Bloomington’s west side and was exposed to asbestos while in the course of his employment. He developed asbestosis and lung cancer, and died September 19, 2007, from the lung cancer.
The case was filed in McLean County Circuit Court under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). The Act covers injuries sustained by railroad workers in the course of their employment. The jury found the railroad had knowledge of the hazards of asbestos and negligently failed to warn Jim Smith and John Nafziger about the hazards of asbestos, including failure to provide a reasonably safe work environment. The jury further found that the railroad’s negligence in failing to protect Jim Smith and John Nafziger from asbestos exposure was a cause of their development of asbestosis, and in the case of John Nafziger, his lung cancer and death.
The 3-week trial was held in McLean County in front of Judge Rebecca Foley. The jury deliberated for approximately 5 hours.