NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana has partly denied a motion from the Ford Motor Co. to have a wrongful death lawsuit dismissed. The court ruled, however, that the plaintiff’s wrongful death employer liability claim is barred under law.
Ford had been sued along with a few other companies by the now-deceased Victor Michel, who passed away from peritoneal mesothelioma as result of asbestos exposure after years of work as a mechanic and generator service technician. Michel passed away nearly a year after he had filed suit, and his survivors were assigned as the plaintiffs.
Ford argued that “all of plaintiffs’ wrongful death claims -- for negligence, employer liability, premises liability and products liability -- are barred by the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act (LWCA).” However, Judge Sarah Vance, in a decision filed on May 23, found those claims only apply to the extent that “Michel was Ford’s employee,” and the claims for employer liability were indeed barred.
She went on to explain that under Louisiana asbestos cases, “the court must apply the law in effect at the time that plaintiffs’ tort claims arose,” which included a time period in the late 1960s during which Michel was exposed to asbestos. Considering that “mesothelioma has been a covered disease under the LWCA since 1975,” any claims on an employer basis after that year are barred from litigation.
However, Vance allowed for the plaintiffs’ other claims to stand, citing that “Ford’s argument that plaintiffs are asserting only employment-based claims does not comport with the allegations in the complaint.”
The plaintiffs’ now have the ability to sue Ford only under a premises defendant and the court has opened up the opportunity for alternative claims to be made, as they “have alleged their employer liability claim in the alternative.”