The Court of Appeals of California recently resolved a contentious mesothelioma lawsuit in which an asbestos company attempted to deny the children of a deceased man the right to pursue wrongful death claims. The case pitted Elementis Chemicals, Inc. against the adult children of Marty Marteney, who died of mesothelioma in January of 2015.
The Marteney’s mesothelioma lawsuit was similar to many others: Marty and his wife Marie filed a claim against Elements, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), and many other defendants, accusing them of having been involved in the manufacture and marketing of asbestos-containing products that caused his illness. The couple settled with several of the defendants, leaving only Union Carbide and Elementis to litigate their claim, and at trial a jury apportioned a percentage of responsibility to those companies. As per the terms of the settlement with the others (which included language pertaining to wrongful death claims), it was determined what UCC and Elementis owed for both economic damages and noneconomic damages. Elements appealed the ruling, and while the appeal was pending, Marty died. His adult children then filed a wrongful death claim while Marie settled her lawsuit voluntarily. Elementis then appealed, arguing that the adult children were compelled to abide by the terms of the settlements that existed between the companies, Marty, and Marie, as well as on other factors.
Upon review of the case, the court sided with the adult children, focusing on Elementis’ argument that when Marie and Marty had negotiated the terms of their own mesothelioma lawsuit, they were acting as agents for their children: the asbestos company said, “Respondents are of course free to let their mother keep that money, but it belongs to them and Elementis is entitled to the settlement credit.” The court disagreed with the notion that the children could or should recover the funds from their mother, or that the parents having given them cash gifts prior to and after Marty’s death somehow negated their right to file their own lawsuit.
Mesothelioma victims and their families struggle with many unfair elements, and it is always rewarding when the courts are able to treat them thoughtfully and with compassion. If you need information on how to approach any aspect of life with mesothelioma, we are here to help. Call the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.