Elementis Chemicals loses appeal in Calif. asbestos case regarding wrongful death damages

By Carrie Salls | Nov 21, 2018

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – The Court of Appeal of the State of California, 2nd Appellate District upheld an order granting an award in an asbestos case, according to an opinion certified for publication on Nov. 1.

Judge Nora Manella said in the opinion that the three-judge panel did not agree with Elementis Chemicals' arguments on appeal that the lower court’s ruling in favor of the deceased's children should be deemed void and that the settlement credits were improperly calculated in that ruling.

The appeals court said Marty and Marie Marteney won their personal injury and loss of consortium case against Elementis, and “while Elementis’ appeal from the judgment on those claims was pending, Marty Marteney died.” After he died, Marteney’s children, Bruce Marteney, Steve Marteney and Chrystal Dahlstein, added wrongful death claims to the counts against Elementis.

A jury verdict awarded damages to the Marteneys’ children in connection with the wrongful death claims.

“The trial court determined Elementis’ liability for damages in light of prior settlements and rendered a judgment in (the children’s) favor,” according to the Appeals Court ruling.

Elementis argued that the trial court, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, did not have the right to issue a ruling in the wrongful death case and “erred in valuing the settlement credits to which Elementis was entitled.”

According to the appeals court opinion, Marty and Marie’s original lawsuit was filed in August 2012 against Elementis, Union Carbide Corp. and other companies that made and sold asbestos-containing products. The complaint was filed because Marty Marteney had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, allegedly because of “exposure to asbestos from the defendants’ products,” the ruling states.

The appeals court said the Marteneys reached $2.39 million in settlements with some of the defendants and were awarded $1.5 million in their case against Elementis and Union Carbide on a strict liability claim.

“That sum comprised $400,000 in economic damages to Marty and Marie, $375,000 in noneconomic damages to Marty and $750,000 in noneconomic damages to Marie,” the appeals court ruling said. “The jury also allocated UCC a 5 percent share of comparative fault and Elementis a 3 percent share of comparative fault.”

The Superior Court judge subsequently ruled that 20 percent of the settlement funds should be earmarked for future wrongful death claims, and, “in view of that allocation, the court found that the settlement credits to which UCC and Elementis were entitled reduced their liability for economic damages ‘to zero.’”

Following Marty Marteney’s death, the appeals court said his wife agreed to withdraw her wrongful death lawsuit against Union Carbide and his children settled with Union Carbide.

The appeals court said a jury awarded $87,000 in economic and $44,000 in noneconomic damages to Bruce Marteney, $54,000 in economic damages and $44,000 in noneconomic damages to Steve Marteney and $54,000 in economic damages and $75,000 in noneconomic damages to Dahlstein.

A later ruling issued by trial court Judge Charles Palmer granted a total of $195,000 in economic damages to the children and $4,890 in noneconomic damages, which was based on Elementis’ 3 percent share awarded by the jury.

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