Keene v, CNA Holdings, LLCAnnotate this Case
Hystron Fibers, Inc. hired Daniel Construction Company in 1965 to build a polyester fiber plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. When the plant began operating in 1967, Hystron retained Daniel to provide all maintenance and repair workers at the plant. Hystron soon became Hoechst Fibers, Inc. Pursuant to a series of written contracts, Hoechst paid Daniel an annual fee and reimbursed Daniel for certain costs. The contracts required Daniel to purchase workers' compensation insurance for the workers and required Hoechst to reimburse Daniel for the workers' compensation insurance premiums. Dennis Seay was employed by Daniel. Seay worked various maintenance and repair positions at the Hoechst plant from 1971 until 1980. The manufacture of polyester fibers required the piping of very hot liquid polyester through asbestos-insulated pipes. He eventually developed lung problems, which were later diagnosed as mesothelioma, a cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Seay and his wife filed this lawsuit against CNA Holdings (Hoechst's corporate successor) claiming Hoechst acted negligently in using asbestos and in failing to warn of its dangers. After Seay died from mesothelioma, his daughter, Angie Keene, took over the lawsuit as personal representative of his estate. Throughout the litigation, CNA Holdings argued Seay was a statutory employee and the Workers' Compensation Law provided the exclusive remedy for his claims. The circuit court disagreed and denied CNA Holdings' motion for summary judgment. A jury awarded Seay's estate $14 million in actual damages and $2 million in punitive damages. The trial court denied CNA Holdings' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, again finding Seay was not a statutory employee. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the circuit court and the court of appeals correctly determined the injured worker in this case was not the statutory employee of the defendant.