Company backs out of settlement in asbestos case

By John O'Brien | Mar 15, 2006

CHARLESTON - A South Charleston woman is claiming Union Carbide breached a settlement agreement when it offered her only $5,000 instead of the $170,000 amount upon which the two had previously agreed.

Anna Keys, whose husband Carl died April 1, 1997, possibly from asbestos exposure, says she was recently notified that the terms of her previous settlement with Union Carbide would not be upheld.

In a lawsuit filed March 10 in Kanawha Circuit Court, Keys says the two sides agreed on an amount in April 2004, but she received a letter this January with different news.

"Plaintiff was advised that the Defendants do not intend to honor the previously executed Settlement Agreement and offered to settle Plaintiff's claim for $5,000," the complaint says.

Keys also lists Dow Chemical Company as a defendant. The money she is seeking is money she feels is owed to her by the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Fund for lost benefits.

However, the defendants told her in a letter that her husband's benefits would only have been paid until he was 65. Carl Keys died at age 69.

Therefore, they argue that they do not owe the full amount. They called it an "Age 65 application," where "benefits will be paid until the decedent reached age 65 because the application of the policy is currently pending before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. As it stands, Brickstreet (Insurance) would only pay the claimant-widow until the decedent's benefits would have been terminated by W. Va. Code."

Carl Keys worked at Union Carbide from 1951-1982 and contracted occupational pneumoconiosis and pulmonary function impairment. In 1993, he was granted a 40 percent permanent partial disability award by the Workers' Compensation Fund.

After his death in 1997, Anna Keys filed a dependant's benefits claim with the Workers' Compensation Fund, which was denied because the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board concluded that the disease was not a material contributing factor in causing the death.

In 1999, she submitted three reports from Dr. Dominic Gaziano, who opined that Carl Keys had asbestosis and that his death was due to occupational exposure to asbestos.

Five years later, the defendant's inquired about settling the claim. Keys thought the matter was over until the recent turn of events.

She is represented by E. William Harvit. Judge Jim Stucky has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-453

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