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Court: release bars recovery for later lung cancer diagnosis

In 1995, a former employee of CSX Transportation Inc. signed a release agreement which discharged the company from all liability for injuries or diseases he acquired as a result of being exposed to asbestos during his employment with the company. In exchange for signing that release, the company paid the former employee $12,000.

Eight years later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Because that cancer was caused by his asbestos exposure, he filed a lawsuit against his former employee, alleging that the company had caused him to be exposed to the deadly products and had thereby caused his lung cancer. However, the court ruled that the earlier release protected the company from liability, even though the employee would not be diagnosed with lung cancer for nearly a decade after signing it.

In the release, the employee agreed to discharge the company from "all claims for known and unknown, manifested and unmanifested...occupational diseases or injuries, including cancer, arising from or contributed to by exposure to...asbestos." The company argued in court that the man signed the release after consulting with an attorney, and that it should therefore govern the later lawsuit.

The employee argued that he did not have knowledge of the risks of lung cancer that often arise from asbestos exposure, and that the release should not govern his eventual diagnosis. The court disagreed, and dismissed the lawsuit.

This case illustrates the importance of hiring a personal injury attorney with a long and successful history of asbestos litigation. Hopefully, the employee is able to pay for his cancer treatment without the settlement that he may have received from his former employer.

Source: The West Virginia Record, "Justices affirm Kanawha FELA ruling for CSX," Jessica M. Karmasek, Oct. 25, 2011

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