Hepler Broom, LLC

Summary Judgment for Ameren Illinois in Northern District of Illinois Mesothelioma Case

January 2, 2014

Judge John Tharp of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of Ameren Illinois in the case of Peter Stanley v. Ameren Illinois Company, et al., 1:12-cv-06073, involving a 76-year-old engineer who died of mesothelioma.

Peter Stanley spent his career as a boiler engineer for Babcock & Wilcox.  From 1961 to 1967, he worked as a field start-up engineer, commissioning new boilers at numerous industrial sites throughout the Midwest.  No defendant disputed that Peter Stanley was exposed to asbestos from thermal insulation during his work commissioning boilers.

Plaintiff sued Ameren Illinois, an electric utility that was constructing a powerhouse, and claimed they owed Peter Stanley a duty of care because it retained sufficient control over the construction of the powerhouse in 1965 and 1966 where Peter Stanley commissioned a new boiler.  Co-defendant Sargent & Lundy prepared the specifications for the Coffeen powerhouse, and Ameren contracted with equipment manufacturers and contractors to supply the equipment to construct the Coffeen powerhouse.

HeplerBroom argued on behalf of Ameren that that it did not owe Peter Stanley a duty because Ameren did not control Peter Stanley’s work and Peter Stanley’s injury was not caused by a condition on the land.  Ameren also argued that even if a duty existed, the Illinois Construction Statute of Repose barred Plaintiff’s claim as the injury arose out of a construction project that ended more than 10 years ago.

The Court agreed and ruled that although Ameren had employees onsite during construction and oversaw the progress of the work under its construction contracts, it did not retain control over the manner and method in which the contractors performed their work.  Therefore, Ameren did not owe Peter Stanley a duty of care under the retained control exception to the limited liability of an employer of independent contractors.

Even in light of the Court’s ruling that Ameren did not owe the Plaintiff a duty of care, the Court found that insulation was indeed an improvement to real property and that the Illinois Construction Statute of Repose also barred Plaintiff’s claim against Ameren.

Plaintiff was represented by Bergman Draper Ladenburg and Pepple Cantu Schmidt, both of Seattle.