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Cameron v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp.

June 02, 1998

MARGE CAMERON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF J. BERNARD LATTA, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
OWENS-CORNING FIBERGLAS CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS, AND CHARTER PLC, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. ELEANOR PRICE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF FLOYD PRICE, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
UNARCO INDUSTRIES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS, AND CHARTER PLC, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McCULLOUGH

Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County

No. 95L112, No. 95L50

Honorable Ronald C. Dozier, Judge Presiding.

In these consolidated appeals, this court allowed the petition of defendant Charter PLC (Charter) for leave to appeal the denial of its motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. 166 Ill. 2d R. 306(a)(3). In No. 4-97-0385, the plaintiff is Marge Cameron, individually and as special administrator of the estate of J. Bernard Latta, deceased. In No. 4-97-0386, the plaintiff is Eleanor Price, individually and as special administrator of the estate of Floyd J. Price, deceased. Other named defendants are not involved in this appeal. The issues are whether (1) the trial court erred in ruling that in personam jurisdiction over Charter can be based on activities of alleged coconspirators; and (2) Charter did not have sufficient contacts with Illinois on which to base in personam jurisdiction. We affirm.

On March 24, 1995, Cameron filed her complaint against multiple defendants in this asbestos case. Her complaint alleged a conspiracy among the defendants and others. Count I was a wrongful death action, and count II sought damages for Latta's injuries prior to death. Summons and complaint were served on Charter on April 5, 1995, in Jefferson County, Illinois.

On May 8, 1995, Charter filed a special and limited appearance and a motion to quash service of process. That motion, and supporting affidavits, indicated (1) Charter was a corporation organized under the laws of the United Kingdom; (2) plaintiff served "Charter Consolidated PLC, National Mine Service, Route 37 N. Mt Vernon, Illinois," at a warehouse facility of National Mine Service, Inc.; (3) prior to March 8, 1995, defendant indirectly owned shares of National Mine Service, but National Mine Service sold all its assets to a subsidiary of Marmon Corporation, including the warehouse in Mt. Vernon; (4) these assets were later transferred to National Mine Service, Inc., another Marmon subsidiary; (5) Charter had no affiliation with or interest in Marmon or National Mine Service, Inc.; (6) Charter indirectly continues to own shares of National Mine Service Company, which had changed its name to Distribution and Mining Equipment Company and is dormant and conducts no business in Illinois or anyplace else; and (7) Marmon, National Mine Service, Inc., and their employees are not registered agents of Charter. The trial court allowed plaintiff to depose Charter's affiants without affecting Charter's special and limited appearance.

On August 8, 1995, plaintiff Cameron served an alias summons and complaint on Distribution Mining and Equipment Company through CT Corporation System, Chicago, Illinois. Charter moved to quash the alias summons on the ground that Charter and Distribution Mining are separate companies; CT Corporation System is not a registered agent of Charter; and no officer, director, or employee of Distribution Mining and Equipment Company is an officer, director, or employee of Charter. The motion was supported by affidavits. The parties filed numerous documents and depositions. On October 18, 1996, the motion to quash was denied, and Charter's special and limited appearance was overruled after the trial court found that service was proper based on the relationship of Fred O. Clayton to both Charter and Distribution Mining and Equipment Company.

On November 14, 1996, Charter again filed a special and limited appearance and a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff Cameron moved to strike Charter's motion on the ground that it had waived the right to challenge personal jurisdiction because of the prior motions and rulings on the motion to quash service. Plaintiff's motion was denied. On April 28, 1997, the trial court denied Charter's motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. This appeal, No. 4-97-0385, followed.

On February 23, 1995, Price filed a complaint alleging multiple counts. Charter was named a defendant in counts X, XI, and XII. Count X was a conspiracy in a wrongful death action, count XI sought damages for injuries to Floyd Price prior to his death, and count XII was for loss of consortium. The procedural history of this case is essentially the same as in Cameron.

The allegations of the counts of the complaints in both cases naming Charter as a defendant are also substantially the same. The complaints name Johns-Manville Corporation; Johns-Manville Sales Company; UNARCO Industries, Inc.; and Raymark Industries, Inc.; or their corporate predecessors, as coconspirators of Charter and the other named defendants. The complaints alleged the conspirators (1) were active in the asbestos business for many years, had knowledge of manufacturing operations using asbestos, and had actual knowledge of asbestos disease and death among workers exposed to asbestos as early as the 1930s; (2) knew workers were ignorant of the hazardous propensities of asbestos; (3) knew asbestos was inherently dangerous; (4) had employees who were exposed to asbestos dust and had a duty to provide a safe workplace or to warn of the hazards; (5) knew that, if they adequately warned their employees and others whose work brought them into contact with the asbestos, the publication would cause workers to leave asbestos-using industries, reducing sales and uses of asbestos; and (6) knowingly conspired and agreed among themselves to

"a) positively assert in a manner not warranted by the information possessed by the conspirators, that which was and is not true, to wit, that it was safe for people to work with and in closed [sic] proximity to asbestos and asbestos[-]containing materials; [and]

b) suppress information about the harmful effects of asbestos, including medical and scientific data, causing workers to be and to remain ignorant of that information."

The complaints alleged, e.g., that, in furtherance of the conspiracy, the conspirators did one or more of the following acts:

"a) sold asbestos which was used at the plant without warning of the hazards known to the seller;

b) refused to warn its own employees about the hazards of asbestos known to it, including the refusal of Unarco to warn its employee, J. Bernard Latta, about the hazards of asbestos known to Unarco;

c) edited and altered the reports and drafts of publications initially prepared by Dr. Lanza concerning the hazards of asbestos during the 1930's;

d) agreed in writing not to disclose the results of research on the effects of asbestos upon health unless the ...


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