The Associated Press March 14, 2011, 7:06PM ET

Owens-Illinois denies asbestos conspiracy claim

Major glass manufacturer Owens-Illinois Inc. said Monday it is disappointed by a jury verdict assessing more than $40 million in damages against it in a case of alleged injuries from asbestos.

Owens-Illinois said it will contest the verdict of a McLean County, Ill., jury if necessary in the state's appeal courts. On Friday, the jury awarded the plaintiff, Charles Gillenwater, a total $90 million in damages against Owens-Illinois and three other companies: Honeywell International Inc., Pneumo Abex and John Crane Inc.

Gillenwater is said to have contracted mesothelioma while working as a pipe fitter in the 1970s at several locations, including Illinois State University, Bridgestone-Firestone and Eureka Co. He accused Owens-Illinois, Honeywell and Pneumo Abex of conspiring to conceal information about the health risks of asbestos from their employees, customers and others.

Mesothelioma, which is cancer in the lining of the chest or abdomen, is associated with exposure to asbestos.

Owens-Illinois said in a statement that it "did not conspire with anyone concerning asbestos health hazards, continues to deny these conspiracy claims, and will challenge this verdict, if necessary, in the Illinois Appellate Courts."

"The company has successfully defended its position in similar cases and is confident of a successful outcome in this matter as well," it said.

Owens-Illinois noted that Gillenwater never worked for it or in any of its plants, and that he did not allege that he was exposed to materials containing asbestos made or sold by the company.

The verdict assessed $40 million in punitive damages against Owens-Illinois and a share of the $9.6 million in compensatory damages imposed on the four companies.

Perrysburg, Ohio-based Owens-Illinois, the world's largest maker of glass containers, said it doesn't expect the case to affect its financial outlook for the year.

Owens-Illinois shares fell $1.30, or 4.2 percent, to end at $29.41 on Monday.


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