APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. (D.C. Civil No. 88-00643).
Before: Stapleton, Roth, and Lewis, Circuit Judges.
In 1982, the Johns-Manville Corporation ("Johns-Manville") filed for bankruptcy as a result of the thousands of asbestos-related claims pending against it. The Manville Corporation Asbestos Disease Compensation Fund (the "Manville Trust" or the "Trust") was created in the reorganization that ensued and became a mechanism for the Disposition of pending and future asbestos-related personal injury claims against Johns-Manville.
In this appeal, we are asked to review the district court's treatment of the Manville Trust as a "settled defendant" for purposes of entering judgment after trial in an asbestos personal-injury case. Because plaintiff has not settled with the Manville Trust but merely possesses a claim against it, we will reverse the district court and remand for entry of an appropriate judgment. On remand, when amending the judgment, the district court is also to re-compute the amount of delay damages due to the plaintiff, since we also reverse its decision to award damages for delay of trial caused by plaintiff's request for a continuance.
Donald Sealover worked as a carpenter for forty years. He frequently came into contact with products that contained asbestos. Some of these products were manufactured by Johns-Manville. After Mr. Sealover developed malignant mesothelioma, he and his wife, Alma Sealover, filed suit against various defendants who were engaged in the manufacture and sale of products containing asbestos. Soon thereafter, Donald Sealover died and his wife continued the case in her own name, acting both individually and as administratrix of his estate.
The case proceeded to trial in July 1991 against defendants GAF Corp. ("GAF"), National Gypsum Co. ("National Gypsum"), U.S. Gypsum Co. ("U.S. Gypsum"), W.R. Grace & Company ("W.R. Grace") and the Manville Trust. Prior to trial, Mrs. Sealover settled her claims against defendant Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation ("OCF").
At the Conclusion of the trial, the district court added OCF to the verdict sheet. Thus, the jury considered whether six defendants -- GAF, National Gypsum, U.S. Gypsum, W.R. Grace, the Manville Trust and OCF -- were strictly liable to the plaintiff. It found that all were liable and awarded $210,000 to Alma Sealover individually and $400,000 to the estate of her husband.
Later, the district court granted a motion by GAF, National Gypsum, U.S. Gypsum and W.R. Grace to treat the Manville Trust as a settled defendant and to mold the verdict to account for the settlements of both the Manville Trust and OCF. It thus entered judgment jointly and severally against defendants GAF, National Gypsum, U.S. Gypsum and W.R. Grace and in favor of Alma Sealover as administratrix of her husband's estate in the amount of $333,321.40, which represented the $400,000 jury award reduced by one-sixth for each settled defendant and then increased by delay damages, and in favor of Alma Sealover individually in the amount of $175,022.96, which represented the $210,000 awarded by the jury reduced by two-sixths and then increased by delay damages.
The effect of the district court's judgment was to require Mrs. Sealover to pursue the Manville Trust separately for the one-sixth share of responsibility the jury had placed upon it. In contrast, had the district court declined to treat the Manville Trust as a settled defendant, judgment would have been entered against it, along with GAF, National Gypsum, U.S. Gypsum and W.R. Grace in an amount that would have been reduced by only the one-sixth attributed to Mrs. Sealover's pretrial settlement with OCF. In the latter situation, the co-defendants would have been required to ensure that the entire amount of the judgment was satisfied while they, rather than Mrs. Sealover, pursued the Manville Trust for contribution.
Mrs. Sealover appeals, contending that the district court should not have treated the Manville Trust as a settled defendant. W.R. Grace cross-appeals,*fn1 arguing that while the district court appropriately treated the Manville Trust as a settled defendant, it erred by awarding an excessive amount of delay damages.
The district court had jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), and we exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The facts before us are not in dispute, but the parties take exception to the district court's interpretation and application of the law. Thus, our review is plenary. Gregoire v. Centennial School District, 907 F.2d 1366, 1370 (3d Cir. 1990). See also Manor Care, Inc. v. Yaskin, 950 ...