Asbestos litigation against Chevron to continue, N.Y. Court of Appeals orders

Following arguments by Motley Rice appellate attorney Lou Bograd, the N.Y. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision that found litigation filed on behalf of a former seaman who tragically lost his life to mesothelioma should be allowed to proceed against Chevron Corporation under the Jones Act.

Mason South, the original plaintiff in the case, worked as a merchant mariner aboard Texaco ships from 1953 to 1955. During that time, South was allegedly exposed to and inhaled toxic asbestos dust and fibers. In 1997, South filed a lawsuit against Texaco and other defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, alleging that he suffered a nonmalignant pulmonary disease due to asbestos exposure. South entered into a settlement with Texaco shortly after his lawsuit was filed. The 1997 litigation was dismissed as a result of the settlement.

In February 2015, nearly 20 years later, South, represented by Motley Rice LLC and the Jaques Admiralty Law Firm, filed a new lawsuit, this time in the New York Supreme Court for the County of New York, after he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The lawsuit sought to hold Chevron, Texaco’s successor by merger, accountable for “serious, incurable and progressive asbestos-related disease.” Causes of action against Chevron included a claim under the Jones Act and federal admiralty and maritime law. South’s wife, as Administrator of his Estate, later replaced South as the plaintiff in the case following his death in 2015.

Chevron asked the Court to grant summary judgment in the case based on the release signed by South in 1997. Motley Rice asbestos attorney John Herrick argued against the defense motion on behalf of South during a hearing in October 2015. The trial court denied the defense request because Chevron failed to demonstrate South understood he was releasing a future claim for mesothelioma at the time he signed the release. As a result, the trial court found Chevron did not meet its burden under the heightened standards of the Jones Act and admiralty law to demonstrate that the release barred the claims alleged in the current lawsuit. Despite appeals from the defense, the N.Y. Appellate Division affirmed that decision in 2017, as did the N.Y. Court of Appeals on Feb. 21, 2019, clearing the way for the lawsuit to proceed through trial court. Motley Rice appellate attorney Lou Bograd argued on behalf of the plaintiff in both the Appellate Division and the Court of Appeals. 

The case is South v. Chevron Corporation, et al., No. 190029/2015, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.

Read the order from the N.Y. Court of Appeals.

Read the complaint.

Motley Rice attorneys have worked for years to further litigation filed for asbestos victims including merchant mariners and seaman under the Jones Act, railroad workers under FELA, as well as other worker safety laws. If you or a loved one suffers from mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may contact attorney John Herrick by email or call 1.800.768.4026.