The family of a seaman who died of malignant mesothelioma has won the right to pursue legal action nearly two decades after he signed a release in a case he filed against Texaco for another asbestos-related illness. Mason South had worked as a merchant marine from 1945 to 1982, and during that time he worked aboard ships owned by Texaco, which was later purchased by Chevron. In 1997 he had been part of a lawsuit filed against Texaco and dozens of other companies for having exposed workers to asbestos: at the time he had been diagnosed with a non-malignant asbestos-related disease, and at that time in exchange for a part of an agreed-to settlement, he signed a release against future legal actions. Nearly 20 years later he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and filed suit against Chevron, which filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that they were protected by the previously signed release. The Supreme Court of New York denied this motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed this decision.
Inclusion of Mesothelioma in Release Document Deemed Irrelevant
At issue in Chevron’s motion for summary judgment was the question of whether Mr. South’s mesothelioma was included in the release that he signed back in 1997. Though the company argued that mesothelioma was specifically listed in the release, the Court of Appeals pointed out in its decision that the idea that he was releasing the company from future responsibility for mesothelioma ignored the fact that the citation’s context was part of a long list that described the diseases that he might have currently been diagnosed with rather than precluding the disease in the future.
Mesothelioma Victim Had Received Just $1,750 in 1997 Asbestos Settlement
Much of the court’s decision on this particular malignant mesothelioma case was specific to seamen who file suit under the Jones Act’s FELA law, which voids any contracts that have the intent of enabling a common carrier from exempting itself from liability. Other things that were taken into consideration was the small amount of money that Mr. South received from Texaco — just $1,750 — which served as an indication that the settlement at the time was not representative of an appropriate compensation for the rare and fatal asbestos-related disease.
If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you need information about your rights or the resources available to you, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.