Asbestos Company’s Name Change Can’t Mask Responsibility for Mesothelioma
Following the mesothelioma death of her husband, a widow and her children sought justice from the companies responsible for having exposed him to asbestos. One of those companies had been sold and renamed, and its legal place of business changed. The company claimed it had no liability for its predecessor’s negligence and a lower court agreed, but a careful review by the Court of Appeal of Louisiana reversed that decision, allowing the family to continue their pursuit of compensation for their loss.
Question of Jurisdiction in Mesothelioma Lawsuit
The appeals’ court’s decision in the mesothelioma lawsuit centered on the question of jurisdiction and responsibility. Charles Hayes was exposed to asbestos when he worked at two different plants in Louisiana from May of 1953 to April of 1954 and recalled that a construction and maintenance company called Ford, Bacon & Davis (FBD) had built the plant.
When Hayes filed his mesothelioma lawsuit, he learned that FBD had changed its name and business registration in 1996, again in 1998, and was then sold in September 2000. The new owner, SYSTRA USA, was named in the family’s claim but argued that they were not the same company as FBD and bore no responsibility for their actions. Though a lower court denied their argument, an appeals court agreed. The family appealed that second decision.
Asbestos Company’s Attorney’s Words Confound Their Argument
The appellate court decided in favor of the mesothelioma victim’s widow and children and ruled that their case against SYSTRA USA should be heard. They cited several reasons, including testimony provided by SYSTRA’s own attorney. During the original trial, the company’s counsel had been asked whether his client had assumed the liabilities of the predecessor corporation, and had answered by saying in part, “I will stipulate that the Systra Engineering, Inc., but for a name change is the same corporation, but I don’t – I haven’t seen the documents and I can only be honest in that regard.”
The court ruled that, “Louisiana has an interest in not only protecting those employed in the state but also in ensuring that those workers have a fair and efficient venue for seeking compensation for their injuries. Accordingly, the assertion of personal jurisdiction over SYSTRA in Louisiana is reasonable under these circumstances.”
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