C&R Settlement Language

Johns Mansville v. WCAB (Cooper) 2016 Cal.Wrk.Comp LEXIS 2 (W/D): After settling an asbestos related case involving lungs and respiratory system by way of CNR, applicant died and his widow was allowed to bring another claim against same defendant. WCJ found that the death was caused as a result of cancerous injuries to other body parts (abdominal), which were different body parts listed on CNR. Defendant appealed arguing addendum language resolved “any and all remaining claims for workers’ compensation benefits arising from exposure to asbestos, including mesothelioma and asbestos related cancers” and it further released defendant from liability for Applicant’s claim for death benefits. WCAB agreed with limiting a CNR to only the listed body parts, condition or system regardless of contrary language in any addendum.  The panel found that the “express terms” in both the CNR and addendum limited the settlement to the listed body parts. The addendum noted that the “settlement includes any and all injuries arising from exposure to asbestos, including mesothelioma and asbestos related cancers.”  The WCAB quoted language from the CNR form used at the time of settlement, which limits settlement to those body parts, condition or systems identified in paragraph 1, which is essentially same language as the current CNR form at page 5, paragraph 3: “… despite any language to the contrary in this document or any addendum”. In addition, the general release and specific death benefits release applied only to injury to body parts covered by the agreement.  Interestingly, the court also took into consideration that the deceased applicant was unrepresented when the CNR was negotiated and approved.