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Court Rules that Survival Suits Exists Against Insurance Company of a Dissolved Corporation

The death of a loved one can obviously be a hard time for a family. Families have to deal with many issues after the death of one of its members, and the financial implication of the death is a hard to handle issue. Many times financial issues may take a long time to materialize. When the death of a loved one is due to an accident or an effect from something on the job, many families have to sift through the complex legal system to see if they have any rights against the employer, or any third-party. Many people in the past have been impacted by exposure to asbestos. Many illnesses can occur due to this exposure, icluding malignant mesothelioma. Many families attempt to bring survival suits against employers when their loved one was exposed to asbestos during employment. The impact of asbestos exposure may not manifest itself for many years, or decades in the future. What if the corporation has changed hands? What if the corporation no longer exists? This last question was answered in a recent decision by the Appeals Court of Louisianna, Fourth District.

In Marcel vs. Delta Shipbulding Co.(Delta), the plaintiffs were survivors of a man who died due to malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos while working for Delta. The plaintiffs were suing Delta’s insurance company, Continental Insurance Co.(Continental). The issue in the case was that the company went out of business in 1969. The employee worked there between 1948 and 1949. Continental argued that there could be no cause of action because the corporation was no longer in business. In trial court, Continental was able to successfully argue that due to today’s law, which states that all suits against a corporation are null and void three years after the dissolution of the corporation, the cause of action did not exist as a matter of law. Plaintiffs took their case to the appellate court arguing that the trial court was wrong to conclude that there was no cause of action.

The appellate court took the case as a matter of first impression. The Court had never dealt with a case where the corporation had went out of business prior to the enactment of legislation creating a cause of action in such circumstances. The new legislation was passed in 1969. The Court stated that the cause of action accrues in a long-latency occupational disease case when the tortious exposures are significant, such that they will later result in the manifestation of the disease. This meant that the cause of action accrued when the exposure occured back in 1948-49. The Court cited a Louisiana Supreme Court case for the proposition that a survival action accrues simultaneously with the tort, i.e. the exposure, and is transmitted to the heirs of the victim upon death. Based on this, the Court found that the appropriate law was the law that existed at the time of exposure, not the law that exists as it stands today. The statute in effect at that time was act 128. This act discussed the procedure of bringing an action against a dissolved corporation, but it did not discuss causes of action. Although the current law, which states that after three years a cause of action is barred against a dissolved corporation, would have barred this case, the law as it existed at the time of exposure would not bar the current suit, and that law is the law that applied to the current case. Continental brought forth case history that stated that any case against a dissolved corporation is abated at the time of dissolution. The Court was quick to state that even if that law would bar a case against Delta, it does not extend to parties other than the dissolved corporation like Continental. Therefore, the survivial action is not terminated due to Delta’s dissolved status.

In hard times, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is a difficult legal question regarding one’s rights. However, it is pertinent that potential legal issues be discussed with a lawyer as soon as possible. Each case has a time period in which it can be brought. It is essential that if you have a claim, or your think you have a claim, you should seek the advice of legal counsel as soon as possible so that time does not run out on your ability to take any kind of action on your claim.

For more information on asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, feel free to browse our blog dedicated to the topic.

If you think you have a claim, or you have been injured in any way, contact the Berniard Law firm at 1-866-574-8005 to speak with an attorney who can help.