CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Daniel Blouin delivering his opening statement
St. Louis, MO - A Missouri state court jury heard opening statements Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a former mechanic alleging that years of exposure to asbestos in Ford Motor Company’s automotive brakes caused him to develop fatal cancer.
Plaintiff William “Bill” Trokey, 76, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2020. Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer affecting tissue surrounding the lungs and is frequently associated with exposure to asbestos.
His attorneys argue Trokey’s only possible source of asbestos exposure came from doing work with "drum brakes" from 1960 to 1968, but Ford maintains his exposure was too limited to definitively link to his cancer, and that asbestos from other sources could also have caused his illness.
The full trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by CVN, the only news media organization that regularly provides video coverage of asbestos and other product liability trials throughout the United States.
Trokey’s attorney Daniel P. Blouin, based out of Simmons Hanly Conroy’s New York City office, argued during his opening statement that Ford knew for years, including the eight years in question, that asbestos posed a serious health risk but failed to provide adequate warnings to mechanics.
“Ford never put a skull and crossbones or any warning at all on any of their products, when they knew or should have known of the danger,” Blouin told the jury.
Blouin made a pre-emptive attack on what became a central theme of Ford’s opening statement, namely that Trokey only worked as a part time, non-career mechanic in the 1960’s and that any level of exposure asbestos in Ford’s brakes he experienced was not high enough to definitively cause mesothelioma.
He also tempered criticism of Ford's practices with praise for their attorneys, who he described to the jury as "excellent."
“I’ve got the utmost respect for these lawyers," Blouin said. "I don’t respect Ford, because the evidence is going to show that Ford doesn’t take anything into account other than itself.”
Representing Ford, attorney Janika Polk, based out of Kuchler Polk Weiner’s New Orleans office, told jurors that despite sympathy for the plaintiff the company would still aggressively defend against claims they argue have no basis.
“You will see that the fact Mr. Trokey has cancer has nothing to do with Ford,” Polk told the jury.
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Janika Polk delivering her opening statement
Polk characterized Trokey’s exposure to Ford brakes during his time as a mechanic as extremely limited, and she pointed to epidemiological studies that show even longtime mechanics supposedly do not face greater odds of developing mesothelioma - suggesting the risk is even lower for a non-career mechanic like Trokey.
“These studies have concluded consistently that career mechanics - people who work 40 years - are not at an increased risk of getting this cancer,” Polk said.
Polk argued that Trokey worked with a variety of automotive products besides Ford, and that he could also have experienced asbestos exposure through printing and lithography work, which Polk said he disclosed to doctors at the time of his initial diagnosis but then did not mention further after filing his lawsuit a short time later.
“Thereafter Mr. Trokey’s medical records reflected only one potential source of exposure to asbestos - auto mechanic work,” Polk said.
The trial is taking place before Judge Christopher McGraugh, and CVN’s camera will remain present for the duration of the trial.
The case is captioned William Trokey v. A.W. Chesterton Company, et al., case number 2022-CC10164 in Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Court in St. Louis.
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