Workers’ compensation awards are often a lifeline for individual victims of asbestos disease. Following are two major rulings that Kazan Law achieved which have formulated law about occupational diseases in California. While Kazan Law no longer handles workers’ compensation claims, these changes remain important to all California asbestos victims.
Case #1: On behalf of Harvey and Lucille Steele. Achieved by former Kazan Law principal Victoria Edises.
Summary: Mr. Steele was diagnosed with relatively mild asbestosis in 1976. Eleven years later he came down with mesothelioma and Kazan Law filed a new workers’ compensation application on his behalf. The new application was contested.
Ruling: The same asbestos exposure can give rise to separate and different asbestos-related injuries and disabilities.
Why this ruling is of major importance: People with one disease (like pleural plaques or asbestosis) are at a much higher risk of later developing other asbestos diseases (like mesothelioma or lung cancer.) The Steele decision acknowledged that even though Harvey Steele had already filed a workers’ compensation claim for one asbestos disease, he was nevertheless entitled to file another workers’ compensation claim for the separate injury and disability he suffered when he became ill from mesothelioma.
Case #2: On behalf of George and Lucille Force. Achieved by former Kazan Law principal Victoria Edises.
Summary: In 1984 Victoria Edises obtained workers’ compensation benefits for Mr. Force, a former shipyard worker. George Force and his wife, Lucille, also filed a third party lawsuit against various asbestos manufacturers and distributors, and obtained substantial recoveries.
After Mr. Force passed away, his wife brought a longshore compensation claim. The insurance carrier attempted to obtain credit against its liability for benefits to Mrs. Force from the monies that Mrs. Force and other members of the Force family received in their successful third party case.
Ruling: The credit to the third party settlement apportioned to Mrs. Force was limited. The amounts apportioned to the Force children were excluded. Additionally, the Court found that the employer had the burden of proving apportionment of any third party settlement between multiple parties.
Why this ruling is of major importance: Insurance carriers can now only receive credit for monies paid to the actual applicants and cannot receive credit for monies paid to other family members. For instance, if a jury awards damages to an injured asbestos worker and to his wife and three children, then under Force, the workers’ compensation carrier can get credit only for the monies apportioned to the worker himself, and not for the monies apportioned to his family. This ruling enhances the overall recoveries of workers with asbestos-related diseases, and their families, from their workers’ compensation claims and third party lawsuits.