Lario Melendrez worked for Ameron International Corporation in Pasadena for 24 years and was exposed to asbestos while manufacturing pipe products for the company. He died in 2011 of asbestos-related mesothelioma. His wife and children filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ameron and argued that Mr. Melendrez was exposed to asbestos at work and through waste or scrap pipe that Ameron permitted him to take home for personal projects, such as making flower pots and part of a patio. Ameron argued that workers comp was the exclusive remedy for Mr. Melendrez’s family.
The Superior Court agreed with the employer and granted summary judgment finding that Mr. Melendrez’s death was work-related and the exclusive remedy applied. The family appealed, and the court of appeal sustained the dismissal in the published case of Melendrez v Ameron International Corporation.
The appeals court agreed that although a triable issue of fact exists whether Melendrez’s exposure to asbestos at home arose out of and in the course of his employment with Ameron, that issue is not material to the viability of Ameron’s defense of workers’ compensation exclusivity. “It is undisputed that Melendrez’s exposure to asbestos in his employment with Ameron substantially contributed to his mesothelioma. Therefore, under the contributing cause standard applicable in workers’ compensation law, his mesothelioma is covered by workers’ compensation, and his separate exposure at home does not create a separate injury outside workers’ compensation coverage. Thus, plaintiffs’ lawsuit is barred by workers’ compensation exclusivity.”
The court also upheld an award of $80,719 to be paid by Mr. Melendrez’s family to Ameron for costs and fees as a result of their rejection of a CCP 998 offer to allow judgment in the lower court trial.