United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
LORITA M. SAVOIE, ET AL.
PENNSYLVANIA GENERAL INSURANCE CO., ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion to Re-urge State Court Exception of
Res Judicata (Rec. Doc. 161) filed by
Owens-Illinois, Inc. (“Defendant”), an opposition
thereto (Rec. Doc. 168) filed by Plaintiffs, and a reply
(Rec. Doc. 190) filed by Defendant. Having considered the
motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable
law, the Court finds that the motion should be
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 7, 1991, Joseph Savoie (“Decedent”) filed
a lawsuit in the Civil District Court for the Parish of
Orleans against Defendant and others, alleging that asbestos
exposure during his employment at Avondale Shipyard caused
him to develop asbestosis. During the pendency of that
litigation, Decedent and his wife entered into a Receipt,
Release, and Indemnification Agreement (“Release
Agreement”) with Defendant as part of a group
settlement. Per the terms of the Release Agreement,
Decedent and his wife agreed to release Defendant from any
causes of action arising out of Decedent's
asbestos-related injury, including, inter alia,
mesothelioma, cancer, wrongful death, and survival claims.
The scope of said agreement is the subject of the instant
was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure
to asbestos, seventeen years after he entered into the
Release Agreement, and for that reason, filed the instant
suit against Defendant (and others) in the Civil District
Court for the Parish of Orleans on August 21, 2014.
Subsequent to filing this lawsuit, Decedent died as a result
of his mesothelioma. Decedent's surviving wife and
children (“Plaintiffs”) then filed an amended
petition for damages and joined the lawsuit seeking survival
and wrongful death damages pursuant to Louisiana law.
Defendants removed the lawsuit to this Court on April 16,
2015. Defendant then filed the instant Motion to Re-urge
State Court Exception of Res Judicata (Rec. Doc. 161)
and Plaintiffs filed an opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 168).
After considering the briefs, the motion is now before the
argues that the Court should grant its motion because the
Release Agreement clearly and unambiguously releases
Defendant from all future claims related to Decedent's
asbestos exposure, including any mesothelioma claims,
wrongful death claims, and survival actions.
argue that the Court should deny Defendant's motion
because Defendant has failed to carry its burden regarding
two elements of res judicata. Additionally,
Plaintiffs contend that the Court should deny Defendant's
motion for the following reasons. First, Plaintiffs argue
that the parties never intended to release mesothelioma
claims. To that end, Plaintiffs also assert that the Release
Agreement is void for lack of lawful cause because Decedent
and his wife were never compensated for Decedent's
mesothelioma diagnosis. Second, Plaintiffs allege that the
Release Agreement violates public policy. Next, Plaintiffs
contend that the Release Agreement is unenforceable as
contra bonos mores because Decedent and his wife
never received a copy of the master settlement agreement.
Finally, Plaintiffs contend that Defendant failed to produce
the complete settlement documents and that production is
required before the Court can rule on Defendant's motion.
doctrine of res judicata precludes re-litigation of
claims and issues arising out of the same factual
circumstances when there is a valid final judgment. Myers
v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Louisiana,
2009-1517, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/19/10), 43 So.3d 207, 210;
see La. Stat. Ann. § 13:4231. A party seeking
to assert an exception of res judicata must prove:
(1) the judgment is valid; (2) the judgment is final; (3) the
parties are the same; (4) the cause or causes of action
asserted in the second suit existed at the time of the final
judgment in the first litigation; and (5) the cause or causes
of action asserted in the second suit arose out of the
transaction or occurrence that was the subject matter of the
Burguireres v. Pollingue, 02-1385, pp. 8-11 (La.
2/25/03), 843 So.2d 1049, 1053-5. While the doctrine of
res judicata is ordinarily predicated upon a final
judgment between the same parties, the doctrine is also
applicable where a transaction or settlement of a disputed or
compromised matter has been entered into between the parties.
Ellison v. Michelli, 513 So.2d 336, 338 (La.App. 4
Cir. 1987); see Thompson v. Bank of New Orleans and Trust
Co., 422 So.2d 230, 231 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1982); see
also Ortego v. State, Dep't of Transp. &
Dev., 96-1322, p. 7-8 (La. 2/25/97), 689 So.2d 1358,
1364 (noting that under Louisiana law, a valid compromise may
form the basis of a plea of res judicata).
compromise is a contract whereby the parties, through
concessions made by one or more of them, settle a dispute or
an uncertainty concerning an obligation or other legal
relationship. La. Civ. Code art. 3071. A compromise precludes
the parties from bringing a subsequent action based upon the
matter that was compromised. La. Civ. Code art. 3080. A party
seeking to interpose a release instrument to support an
exception of res judicata bears “[t]he burden
of proof . . . to establish the requisites for a valid
compromise, including the parties' intent to settle the
differences being asserted in the action in which it is
interposed.” Brown v. Drillers, Inc., 630
So.2d 741, 747 (La. 1994); Myers, 43 So.3d at 211.
However, “[w]here a settlement and release refer
expressly to the claim sought to be released by the party
seeking to enforce the settlement . . . the burden [shifts]
to the party seeking to oppose the enforcement of the
[agreement] to prove that there was no meeting of the
minds.” Hymel v. Eagle, 2008-1287, p. 13
(La.App. 4 Cir. 3/18/09), 7 So.3d 1249, 1257.
Defendant bears the burden of establishing res
judicata. See Myers, 43 So.3d at 211; see
also Brown, 630 So.2d at 747. Plaintiffs contend that
Defendant has failed to meet its burden regarding the
validity of the Release Agreement. In addition, Plaintiffs
assert that Defendant has failed to establish that the causes
of action asserted in the current suit existed at the time
Decedent and his wife executed the Release
The Release Agreement is Valid
assert that the Release Agreement is invalid because it was
not signed by both parties. Pursuant to La. Civ. Code art.
3072, a compromise must be reduced to writing and signed by
the parties or their agents. La. Civ. Code art. 3072; see
Sullivan v. Sullivan, 95-2122, p. 4 (La. 4/8/96), 671
So.2d 315; see also Lavan v. Nowell,708 So.2d 1052,
1052 (La. 1998). However, the signatures need not be
contained in one document to satisfy the writing requirement
of La. Civ. Code art. 3072. See Felder v. Georgia Pac.
Corp., 405 So.2d 521, 523 (La. 1981) (“Where two
instruments, when read together, outline the obligations each
party has ...