Shipyard Defendant Obtains Summary Judgment as to Whether Certain Prior Asbestosis Releases Apply to Future Mesothelioma Claim U.S. District Court, E.D. Louisiana, June 10, 2019

LOUISIANA – The family of Joseph Savoie, Jr. filed suit against multiple defendants alleging he passed away from mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos while working at Avondale Shipyards from 1948-1995. Savoie was originally diagnosed with asbestosis in 1990 and settled with several defendants. Years later, he developed mesothelioma. Avondale sought summary judgment on the issue of whether the plaintiff released his future claim for mesothelioma with respect to eight entities with whom he previously settled in his asbestosis action. Avondale’s reasoning for this motion was to use the releases as share credits against any potential judgment against it in Savoie’s subsequent mesothelioma case. The plaintiff opposed the motion and argued that “Avondale had not shown that the release documents constitute enforceable settlements and even if the releases are enforceable in a general sense, they did not compromise Savoie’s future claim for mesothelioma.”

The court reminded the standard for summary judgment and stated that summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. The court began analyzing prior cases regarding settlements and concluded that the release of future claims is generally determined by the intent of the parties and where the parties fully understand the rights being released. Relying on the Brown decision, the court noted that intent of the parties is generally found within the four corners of the document itself. Other decisions also discussed the release of future claims. In the Hymel matter, the release itself listed cancer and mesothelioma as being contemplated diseases being released at the time of contract execution. The court turned to the eight releases and granted summary judgment to five of those releases which clearly contemplated the release of cancer and mesothelioma or a cancer related to mesothelioma. Settlements that released diseases that the plaintiff “now has or ever had” did not contemplate future claims even where mesothelioma was listed in the release according to the court. Consequently, summary judgment was denied to three releases. The court noted that Avondale would be permitted to list the settlements on the verdict form provided Avondale prove at trial that the released parties were liable for. Savoie’s mesothelioma.

Read the case decision here.

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