Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestosis and Mesothelioma Could Result in Separate Lawsuits for Same Person

May 24, 2014

New York, NYAsbestosis lawsuits and mesothelioma lawsuits, both linked to a person’s exposure to asbestos, involve a variety of complicated claims often concerning a number of plaintiffs. Because asbestosis and mesothelioma can take a long time to develop, there can be many factors involved in an asbestos lawsuit, such as the plaintiff’s lifestyle, other jobs and proving who is responsible for the asbestos exposure. Recently, a court ruled that just because a plaintiff has settled an asbestosis lawsuit and signed a release form, that does not mean a future lawsuit cannot also be filed.

According to reports, Dolores Blackmon, who had her asbestos lawsuit thrown out of court in 2009 because of a prior settlement, has had her lawsuit revived by a Tennessee appeals court. At issue was Blackmon’s husband’s exposure to asbestos. In 2002, Dophus H. Blackmon settled a Federal Employers’ Liability Act lawsuit for $28,000 against his employer. That lawsuit alleged he developed asbestosis due to his approximately 40 years working for Illinois Central Railroad Co, where he was allegedly exposed to toxic substances including asbestos.

When he agreed to the settlement, Blackmon also signed a release that freed Illinois Central from liability for future claims resulting from his asbestos exposure.

Dolores later filed a lawsuit after her husband died of mesothelioma. In 2009, that lawsuit was thrown out because the court found that the previous release was enforceable and barred Dolores’ lawsuit. But a Tennessee appeals court found that the release from the previous lawsuit did not bar the second lawsuit, leaving Dolores free to continue with her claim. The appeals court ruled that there was no proof that the release was meant to include future claims for mesothelioma and that Blackmon likely did not know he was at risk of developing mesothelioma, when he signed the release.

In its written opinion, the court cited the findings in a previous lawsuit, Wicker v. Consolidated Rail Corp. In that case, the court found that some liability releases were blanket forms, which “did not demonstrate the employees knew of the actual risks to which they were exposed and from which the employer was being released.” Because the plaintiffs could not have known about their actual health risks, they could not have properly waived their claims for chemical exposure.

Furthermore, the court in the Blackmon lawsuit found that although mesothelioma was referenced in the release, it was “buried in a laundry list of other substances and diseases.” As a result, it allowed Blackmon’s lawsuit to be revived.

The lawsuit is Dolores Blackmon v. Illinois Central Railroad Co., case number C-08-280, in the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson.