Malignant mesothelioma is the deadliest disease caused by exposure to asbestos, but it is not the only one. People exposed to the carcinogenic material risk multiple asbestos-related illnesses, with most manifesting symptoms far earlier than mesothelioma. In a recent case heard in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana, survivors of a man who died of mesothelioma in 2018 sought compensation, while the asbestos companies accused of responsibility for his death argued that he’d signed away the right to do so because of an asbestosis settlement he’d signed in 1991. The court disagreed.
Asbestos Companies Point to Claims Settled Decades Earlier
The legal argument revolved around Mr. Callen L. Dempster, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after having been exposed to asbestos and asbestos-containing products over the course of 32 years working for Avondale Shipyards. Before he died Mr. Dempster filed a mesothelioma lawsuit. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the claim based on him having settled claims with 37 entities decades earlier when he was diagnosed with asbestosis.
The asbestos companies argued that the asbestosis settlement agreements precluded his ability to file a claim for mesothelioma, even though at the time he had not been diagnosed with the rare form of cancer. Mesothelioma has an extremely long latency period, and many victims do not begin to show symptoms until fifty to sixty years after their initial exposure. Mr. Dempster’s survivors argued that the original settlement did not and should not have waived his right to sue over the more recent, deadly diagnosis.
Judge Rules That Mesothelioma Case Can Move Forward
After listening to both sides in the mesothelioma case, Chief District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown ruled that the family’s case against the asbestos companies could move forward, writing that “if the release instrument leaves any doubt as to whether a particular future action is covered by the compromise, it should be construed not to cover such future action.”
She further noted that Mr. Dempster’s attorney had been representing him for asbestosis rather than for any malignancies, and that this created an issue of fact as to whether he had intended to release a future lung cancer claim, especially since Master Agreements tend to provide the right to come back for subsequent illnesses not explicitly covered by the release.
Filing a mesothelioma lawsuit can be a long, challenging road, but it is one of the best ways to get the justice that victims deserve. For information on the resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at 1-800-692-8608.