In Rowland v. BASF, 20- 278 (La. App. 1 Cir. 3/29/21), 2021 WL 1170326, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that a claim for death benefits filed by a widow whose husband died from an occupational disease was not prescribed, even though her deceased husband’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits would have been time-barred.
The claimant’s husband was exposed to asbestos from 1969 to 1989 while working for BASF. He was diagnosed with occupationally-related asbestos in 2001 and passed away on July 27, 2018. A claim for Workers’ compensation death benefits against BASF was filed on December 26, 2018.
BASF filed an “Exception of Prescription &/or Motion for Summary Judgment” and argued the widow’s claim was derivative of her husband’s cause of action. BASF contended that, because the employee’s claim would have been prescribed, her claim for death benefits also prescribed. In response, the claimant argued suit was timely because it was filed within one year of the employee’s death as required by La. R.S. 23:1031.1(F). The Worker’s compensation trial judge granted the exception of prescription.
The First Circuit reversed, accepting the claimant’s argument that the claim was timely because it was filed within one year of death. The court rejected BASF’s argument that the death benefit claim could be pursued only if the deceased husband had filed a Worker’s comp claim prior to his death.
In support of dismissal, BASF also cited La. R.S. 23:1231(A), which provides there is no right of action to pursue death benefits if the claim is not filed within two years of the employee’s last treatment. However, the Rowland court did not address this issue because BASF had not filed an Exception of No Right of Action and did not factually establish when the deceased employee last received treatment for asbestos. Moving forward, the viability of the claim will depend upon whether her husband died within two years of the last treatment related to the occupational disease.