When a person is diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, one of the first decisions that they need to make is whether or not to pursue a claim against those responsible for their exposure to asbestos. In the case of Merchant Marine veteran Mason South and his wife Anne, the question was an easy one – he and his survivors were entitled to file a claim against Texaco under the Jones Act based on his 37 years of exposure to their asbestos-contaminated products on the ships that he worked on. But when the couple filed the claim, they were surprised to find that the company filed a motion for summary judgment to have their lawsuit dismissed: Texaco pointed to a release that Mason had signed almost 20 years earlier, and for which they had paid him $1,750.00. Though they were facing a giant conglomerate with a full contingency of high-powered attorneys, the Souths stood up for their rights and fought back – and the courts agreed.
The $1,750 compensation that Texaco had paid the Souths in 1997, and the waiver that went along with it, had been in response to a claim that he had filed to help pay for medical monitoring as a result of his fears of getting sick. According to the original lawsuit that the Souths had filed against Texaco at the time, he held the company and their negligence regarding asbestos responsible for his “cancer phobia, traumatic stressful fear of affliction and worsening of pneumoconiosis.” The claim specifically stated that he was suffering “harm in the form of necessity to be monitored for other asbestotic diseases, including lung cancer.” He did not have mesothelioma at the time, nor was he specifically aware of the disease and the risk that he faced of being diagnosed with it. The waiver that he signed did indicate that neither he nor his survivors could file a claim in the future against the company, including for any that might arise as a result of his exposure to asbestos. Despite this, the courts ruled against Texaco. In addition to pointing out that the payment that had been provided was “meager” and “extremely low” given his “extensive asbestos exposure”, the court also noted that under federal law it is illegal for this type of release to be written in the first place. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York reached the same conclusion that the Supreme Court of New York County had a year earlier, and the widow will be able to file her claim against the company.
If you are facing hardship as a result of a mesothelioma diagnosis, you need a highly qualified mesothelioma attorney guiding you through the process. Call us today at 1-800-966-2244 to learn more about how we can help.