Mesothelioma is a condition that has an extremely long latency period. As a result, it is impossible for a person who has been exposed to asbestos to know whether or not they will eventually be diagnosed with the disease, or when. It is on this premise that the New York Court of Appeals ruled against a motion filed by Chevron Corporation. The company had argued that a seaman diagnosed with the disease should not be able to seek compensation for his damages because of a release he had signed years earlier, following a different asbestos exposure case. The court disagreed.
The mesothelioma victim named in this case was Mason South, a man who had served as a Merchant Marine for nearly forty years. Much of that time was spent on board ships owned by Texaco, a company that was later purchased by Chevron. Years before that purchase took place, Mr. South was included in a lawsuit against Texaco accusing the company of negligence in exposing the seamen to asbestos and causing specific injuries. That lawsuit was settled and in 1997 Mr. South signed a release meant to protect the company from future claims. That release is the main issue of the lawsuit. Mr. South was diagnosed with mesothelioma 17 years later, and subsequently died of the disease. He filed a lawsuit against the now-owner of the company, which his widow took over after his death and which Chevron attempted to suppress. After reviewing the case, the appeals court ruled against Chevron, indicating that the release “does not unambiguously extinguish a future claim for mesothelioma.”
The release that the mesothelioma victim signed in 1997 was for his diagnosis of a non-malignant pulmonary disease, and the court based its decision in part on a 1942 Supreme Court ruling, confirming that he could not have predicted his diagnosis almost two decades later and therefore should not be held to the terms of the release.
If you have been impacted by mesothelioma like Mr. South was, the road to justice can be challenging. For support and guidance, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.