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Weddle v. BP Amoco Chemical Co.

Superior Court of Delaware

April 26, 2019

Alicia WEDDLE, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Joseph Gonzon, Deceased, Claimant/Appellant,
v.
BP AMOCO CHEMICAL COMPANY, Employer, Appellee.

         Submitted: February 1, 2019.

Page 366

          On Appeal from the Industrial Accident Board.

          David T. Crumplar, Esquire, Patrick C. Gallagher, Esquire, Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A., Attorneys for Appellant.

          Paul A. Bradley, Esquire, Antoinette D. Hubbard, Esquire, Maron Marvel Bradley Anderson & Tardy LLC, Wilmington, Attorneys for Appellee.

         OPINION

         Rocanelli, J.

         This is an appeal from a decision of the Industrial Accident Board ("IAB") dismissing a petition to determine compensation due for an employee's asbestos-related disease on the grounds that the employee waived all workers' compensation claims arising from asbestos exposure in the workplace, both known and unknown, in a settlement thirty-four years prior to manifestation of the disease. The question of whether an employee is entitled to workers'

Page 367

compensation for mesothelioma despite settling claims for asbestosis more than thirty years previously has not previously been addressed by this Court.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Joseph Gonzon ("Employee") was an employee of BP Amoco Chemical Corporation ("Employer").[1] During the period of employment from 1968-1980, Employee was exposed to asbestos and developed asbestosis. In 1982, Employee settled his claims for work-related asbestosis ("1982 Settlement"). Thereafter, in November 2016, Employee was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. In April 2017, Employee filed a claim for workers' compensation for mesothelioma developed as the result of exposure to asbestos in the workplace ("Mesothelioma Petition"). Employee died on September 28, 2017 as the result of peritoneal mesothelioma. Employee is survived by his wife. In his Mesothelioma Petition, Employee sought a finding of compensability for his mesothelioma as well as a claim for death benefits for his surviving spouse.

         Employer filed a motion to dismiss the Mesothelioma Petition on the grounds that Employee was not entitled to additional compensation because Employee had released all claims related to asbestos exposure against Employer in 1982. Employee claimed that the 1982 Settlement pertained only to the earlier manifested asbestosis as set forth in a workers' compensation claim as well as a tort claim. After a hearing, the IAB issued a decision on May 24, 2018 dismissing Employee's Mesothelioma Petition on the grounds that the 1982 Settlement precluded Employee from seeking additional compensation related to asbestos exposure ("Mesothelioma Decision").[2] This appeal followed in which the question presented is whether Employee's mesothelioma, diagnosed in November 2016, was included in the 1982 Settlement.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court has jurisdiction over appeals from administrative agencies, including appeals from the IAB.[3] This Court's appellate role is limited to determining whether the IAB's conclusions are supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error.[4] Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."[5] The Court reviews the IAB's legal determinations de novo, which "requires the Court to determine whether the Board erred in formulating or applying legal ...


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