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Friday, April 9, 2010

Exclusivity Doctrine Shields an Employer-Manufacturer From Liability in Mesothelioma Claim

A Federal Judge, who is managing the Multi-District Asbestos Litigation, has ruled that the exclusivity doctrine defeats the application of the dual capacity doctrine where the manufacturer's corporation was merged into the employer's corporation. 

The employee was hired by Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1966 which merged into Agilent Technologies in 1999. In 1966 the employee, while working for HP, worked on asbestos containing products manufactured by F&M Scientific Company (F&M). F&M was acquired by HP in 1965. The employee ceased work in 2001 and ultimately died of mesothelioma on April 7, 2007.

The court reasoned that dual capacity, while it is an exception to the exclusivity doctrine, is not easily obtained.  The economic reality, the court reasoned, is that both companies were the same corporate entity due to the merger of the businesses. 

The Judge held that, "Workers’ compensation must remain the exclusive remedy for injuries sustained in the course of employment. When a corporate entity is simultaneously an employer and a manufacturer of harmful products, workers’ compensation serves to limit its tort liability with respect to its employees." 

Shamir v. Agilent, et al., MDL 875, Civil Action 08-76816, Decided April 5, 2010.

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