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Dahlin v. Lyondell Chemical Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 26, 2018

Cheri Dahlin, Individually and on Behalf of the Estate of Dean Dahlin, Deceased Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Lyondell Chemical Company; Equistar Chemicals, LP; Equistar GP, LLC Defendants - Appellants Archer-Daniels-Midland Company Defendant Cheri Dahlin, Individually and on Behalf of the Estate of Dean Dahlin, Deceased Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Lyondell Chemical Company; Equistar Chemicals, LP; Equistar GP, LLC Defendants - Appellees Archer-Daniels-Midland Company Defendant

          Submitted: October 18, 2017

         Appeals from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Davenport

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, GRUENDER and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          BENTON, Circuit Judge.

         Cheri Dahlin sued Lyondell Chemical Company, Equistar Chemicals, LP, and Equistar GP, LLC (collectively "Lyondell"). A jury returned a verdict for Dahlin. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court vacates and remands.

         I.

         Between 1990 and 1995, Dean B. Dahlin worked for two companies as a commercial truck driver. For both, he loaded his truck with benzene-containing pyrolysis gasoline at a petrochemical facility in Clinton, Iowa. He transported the gasoline to a storage facility where he unloaded it. He then returned to the Clinton facility, reloaded, and went back to the storage facility. Drivers did this four-to-six times a day during the summer.

         Dean's employers did not own the Clinton facility. From 1988 until late 1993, Quantum Chemical Corporation owned it. In late 1993, Hanson, PLC acquired the Corporation, changing its name to Quantum Chemical Company. The name changed back to Quantum Chemical Corporation in 1996-until March 1997, when it became Millennium Petrochemical, Inc. Later in 1997, Millenium formed a joint venture with Lyondell Chemical Company called Equistar Chemicals, LP. Equistar became the Clinton facility's owner. In 2004, Equistar became Lyondell Chemical Company's wholly owned subsidiary.

         In 2009, Equistar and Lyondell Chemical Company, with other affiliated companies, petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court confirmed a reorganization plan in 2010, discharging all existing debts.

         Dean was diagnosed in 2012 with myelodysplastic syndrome, which transformed to acute myeloid leukemia. Dean passed away from AML. His widow, Cheri Dahlin, sued Lyondell, alleging that Dean's benzene exposure at the Clinton facility caused his disease.

         Lyondell moved for summary judgment, arguing that Dahlin's claim was discharged in bankruptcy. The district court denied the motion. See Dahlin v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., 2015 WL 11675667 (S.D. Iowa Sept. 29, 2015). A jury awarded Dahlin $1.76 million in compensatory damages and $1.76 million in punitive damages. Post-trial, the district court vacated the punitive damages, but rejected Lyondell's other arguments. Lyondell appeals. Dahlin cross-appeals to reinstate the punitive damages.

         II.

         Lyondell says that Dahlin's claim was discharged in bankruptcy. The first question is whether this court can review this issue. Lyondell did not raise the discharge issue in a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Instead, it relies on the district court's denial of its motion for summary judgment.

         "It is generally true that a denial of summary judgment is interlocutory in nature and not appealable after trial and judgment." New York Marine & Gen. Ins. Co. v. Continental Cement Co., LLC, 761 F.3d 830, 837 (8th Cir. 2014). "[T]he proper redress for an argument denied at summary judgment is not through appeal of that denial, 'but through subsequent motions for judgment as a matter of law and appellate review of those motions if they were denied.'" Id. at 838, quoting White Consol. Indus., Inc. v. McGill Mfg. Co., 165 F.3d 1185, 1189 (8th Cir. 1999).

         This court, however, has "not indiscriminately foreclose[d] all appeals taken from the denial of an issue raised at summary judgment. . . . [A] distinction [exists] between the denial of a summary judgment motion involving the merits of a claim and one involving preliminary issues, such as a statute of limitations, collateral estoppel, or standing." Id. This court cannot review the denial of ...


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