A Louisiana judge has ruled that documents related to a settlement claim over asbestos-related cancer can be obtained.
On Aug. 16, U.S. Magistrate Judge Janis van Meerveld ruled that documents relating to the settlement of Callen Dempster, a former employee for the former Huntington Ingalls Inc., now Avondale, can be obtained by two others, Albert Bossier Jr., and J. Melton Garrett, who also filed claims against the company.
"Thus, while settlement documents will not be admissible to prove liability, they might be admissible for other purposes," she wrote.
Dempster, who was employed with the company from 1962 through 1994, alleged that during his employment, he was exposed to asbestos that resulted in his asbestos-related cancer. The cancer did not manifest until 2017, the suit claims. Dempster joined Bossier and Garrett as defendants to this lawsuit.
However, in April 2018, Dempster was awarded an undisclosed amount in relation to his claim. Bossier and Garrett sought to have documents related to Dempter's case to use in their lawsuit that is still pending.
Attorneys for Dempster argued that "the sought-after settlement agreements are not relevant because they do not concern Mr. Dempster’s lung cancer," adding that "even if the settlement documents contained statements of exposure, they would not be discoverable or admissible at trial."
But attorneys for Bossier and Garrett argued that "the sought-after information is relevant." According to the lawsuit, Bossier and Garrett believed that the documents "may contain statements by Mr. Dempster regarding his exposure to asbestos at Avondale."
The Court however, found that the documents related to the settlement agreement could be given to Garrett and Bossier with "any settlement amounts redacted as the defendants have requested." Additionally, the court found the terms of any settlement agreement are also relevant, writing in part, "If the settlement extends to the asbestos caused lung cancer that Mr. Dempster claims here and the defendants can prove those settling parties bear some responsibility for Mr. Dempster’s lung cancer, then the defendants may be entitled to a reduction of any damages award against them."
Attorneys for Dempster now have 15 days from the Aug. 16 ruling to provide the defendants with documents.