Louisiana Court Denies Employer’s Motion to Dismiss Mesothelioma Claim

A worker diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma can continue to pursue a negligence claim against his former employer after the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana agreed that his asbestos exposure began before the passage of the state’s workers’ compensation laws. The company, Pelnor, L.L.C., had argued that all evidence of exposure after September 1, 1975 should be excluded and that his case should be dismissed.

Man’s Mesothelioma Blamed on Multiple Sources

When Robert Stephen Sentilles was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, he filed suit against several defendants he blames for exposing him to asbestos between the 1950s and 1980s. Though much of his exposure came from second-hand exposure to asbestos carried home by his father and brothers when they worked at the Avondale Shipyards, he also suffered first-hand exposure when he worked there himself from 1969 to 1972, and then again when he worked at Pelnor from July 31, 1974 through 1983.

Pelnor filed a motion for summary judgment to have the mesothelioma claim against them dismissed. They argued that Sentilles was barred from filing suit against them for any exposure that occurred after September 1, 1975, which was the date that mesothelioma became covered by the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act (LWCA).

Workers’ Compensation Laws Protect Most Employers from Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Most mesothelioma lawsuits filed by workers name manufacturers of asbestos-contaminated equipment as defendants rather than the workplace where the victim was exposed. This is because benefits provided by workers’ compensation are offset by a prohibition from suing the employer. However, in certain situations claims against employers can be filed, including when exposure pre-dates the passage of workers’ compensation laws.

In this case, the court noted that Mr. Sentilles had experienced significant asbestos exposure at Pelnor prior to passage of the LWCA, and that because mesothelioma represents a long latency claim it is not divisible when exposure straddles the date that the law became effective.  

The court wrote that the victim had named a “single legal wrong” that began prior to September 1, 1975 and that the wrong was not divisible. They also refused to bar evidence of exposure after the date that the law was passed because “a jury could infer from defendant’s alleged negligence involving asbestos-related injuries after 1975 that it did not act differently” before that date.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is important to speak to professionals who can support you through your challenges. For information on how the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our Mesothelioma.net news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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