Victory in Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for Firm Client

01.26.2018

On January 26, 2018 the United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a firm client, Lyondell Chemical Co. In its decision the appellate court vacated a seven-figure plaintiff’s verdict and remanded the case back to the trial court for entry of a judgment of dismissal for defendant in a benzene exposure case.

In Estate of Dahlin v. Lyondell Chemical Co. et al., Dean Dahlin was a truck driver who hauled a benzene-containing chemical to and from a petrochemical facility operated by Defendant near Clinton, IA. In 2009, Lyondell, along with other affiliate companies, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A reorganization plan was confirmed in 2010, discharging all existing debts.

In 2012 Dean Dahlin was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, which transformed to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Mr. Dahlin later died from AML. His widow then sued Lyondell, alleging that his benzene exposure at the facility in the early 1990’s caused his disease.

Before trial, Lyondell, represented by counsel from Baker & Botts, Houston, TX, along with Kevin Reynolds from Whitfield & Eddy Law, filed a motion for summary judgment based on the bankruptcy discharge. The trial court, the Hon. Stephanie Rose, presiding, denied the motion. The trial court found that Lyondell had not given Dahlin sufficient notice of its bankruptcy, and that the notice that was given did not comport with due process. The case then proceeded to a trial on the merits in March of 2016. At trial the jury found in favor of Plaintiff, awarding $1.76 million on compensatory damages and $1.76 million in punitive damages. On post-trial motions the district court threw out the judgment for punitive damages, whereupon Lyondell appealed to the 8th Circuit, and Plaintiff cross-appealed on the punitive damages issue.

In its January 26, 2018 opinion, the Eighth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Benton, ruled in favor of Lyondell. The court found that in the course of the bankruptcy proceeding, Lyondell had given proper publication notice to Mr. Dahlin, who was an unknown creditor, and that the notice complied with all applicable bankruptcy rules and due process. As a result, the Plaintiff’s verdict in the trial court was reversed and the case remanded to the trial court for entry of a judgment of dismissal in favor of Lyondell.

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