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Walker v. Kerr-McGee Chem. Corp.

ELR Citation: 23 ELR 20084
Nos. No. EC 87-176-D-D, 793 F. Supp. 688/(N.D. Miss., 05/08/1992)

The court holds that a chemical company was not relieved of its duty to warn an employee about the danger of working with toxic chemicals, and the injured employee's fear of losing his job raises questions of fact about whether he assumed the risk of exposure to toxic chemical fumes. An employee sustained eye injuries when he was exposed to a cloud of toxic chemical fumes at the defendant's plant. The court first holds that the plant's owner may not assert the defense of collateral estoppel based on a state workers' compensation proceeding, to which the owner was not a party. In confronting the collateral effect of a prior state court determination, the court holds that Mississippi law is controlling. The court holds that Mississippi's adherence to the mutuality of parties rule, requiring strict identity of the parties before collateral estoppel applies, forecloses the offensive use of collateral estoppel. The court then holds that questions of fact exist concerning the employee's awareness and assumption of risk. A reasonable fact finder could conclude that the employee did not anticipate the chemical eruption, and that the employee did not voluntarily choose to expose himself to the dangerous condition. The court holds that on these questions of fact, it cannot conclude for summary judgment purposes, that the plant owner was relieved of a duty to warn the employee, and the evidence creates a jury question of whether the owner negligently caused a chemical reaction that exposed the employee to toxic fumes.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Charles D. Easley Jr.
Walters & Easley
401 7th St. N., Columbus MS 39701
(601) 328-9216

Counsel for Defendant
Kenneth E. Milam
Watkins & Eager
The Emporium Bldg., Ste. 300, P.O. Box 650
Jackson MS 39201
(601) 948-6470