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Clark v. AII Acquisition, LLC
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
March 30, 2018
Michele Clark, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of John Clark,  Plaintiff-Appellant,
AII Acquisition, LLC, AWC 1997 Corporation, Crane Co., Domco Products Texas, LP, Eaton Aeroquip LLC, General Cable Industries, Inc., General Gasket Corp., Goodrich Corporation, FKA B.F. Goodrich Company, Industrial Holdings Corporation, FKA Carborundum Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corp., McDonnell Douglas Corporation, Navistar, Inc., FKA International Truck and Engine Corporation, Pecora Corporation, Pfizer Inc., Pirelli Inc., Pirelli Tire, LLC, Pneumo Abex Corporation, Saint-Gobain Abrasives, Inc., Defendants-Cross Defendants-Appellees, The Boeing Company, BorgWarner Morse Tec LLC, CBS Corporation, General Electric Company, Goodyear Canada, Inc., Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Harco LLC, FKA Harco Laboratories, Inc., Henkel Corporation, Hollingsworth & Vose Company, IMO Industries, Inc., Lennox Industries Inc., Mine Safety Appliance Company, LLC, Parker Hannifin Corporation, United Technologies Corporation, Prysmian Cables and Systems USA, LLC, FKA Pirelli Cable Corporation, Defendants-Cross Defendants-Cross Claimants-Appellees, Advanced Group Composites, Inc., CertainTeed Corporation, Georgia-Pacific LLC, Rockwell Automation, Inc., as successor in interest to Allen-Bradley Company, LLC, Union Carbide Corporation, Welco Manufacturing Company, Wyeth Holdings LLC, Defendants-Cross Defendants-Cross Claimants, Ciba-Geigy Corporation, Curtiss-Wright Corporation, Eaton Corporation, E.V. Roberts Headquarters, FMC Corporation, Greene, Tweed & Co., Hitco Carbon Composites, Inc., Kaiser Gypsum Company Inc., Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, Schneider Electric, USA, Inc., FKA Square D Company, Trane U.S. Inc., FKA American Standard Inc., BMCE, Inc., Aerco International Inc., Basf Corporation, Defendants-Cross Defendants.
Argued: December 12, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York. No. 16-cv-6422 - George B. Daniels,
Michele Clark appeals from an April 28, 2017 judgment of the
United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York (Daniels, J.) dismissing her personal injury
claims against more than fifty corporate defendants. We hold
that the district court abused its discretion in invoking the
equitable doctrine of judicial estoppel to dismiss her
claims. Accordingly, we vacate and remand for further
Golanski (Robert E. Shuttlesworth, Shrader & Associates,
LLP, Houston, TX, on the brief) Alani Golanski, Esq., New
York, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
F. Gaynor III (Brian D. Gross, Matthew T. Giardina, Jr.,
Manion Gaynor & Manning LLP, Providence, RI, Amaryah K.
Bocchino, Stephan D. Dargitz, Manion Gaynor & Manning
LLP, Wilmington, DE, on the brief), Manion Gaynor &
Manning LLP, Boston, MA, for Defendant-Appellee The Boeing
Bradley M. Wanner (Abbie Eliasberg Fuchs, on the brief),
Harris Beach, PLLC, New York, NY, for Defendant-Appellee
Prysmian Communications Cables & Systems USA, LLC.
Before: Jacobs, Calabresi, and Chin, Circuit Judges.
CALABRESI, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
2015, John Edward Clark was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a
cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. At that
time, Mr. Clark was nearing completion of a Chapter 13
bankruptcy plan that he and his wife, Michele, had entered
into in 2010. Although the Clarks fulfilled their last
remaining obligations under the plan within a matter of
weeks, their bankruptcy proceeding remained formally open for
another full year before finally coming to a close on August
5, 2016. One week prior to their discharge from that
proceeding, the Clarks initiated the present suit: a personal
injury action against The Boeing Company and a host of other
corporations they believed had exposed Mr. Clark to asbestos.
soon thereafter moved to dismiss the Clarks' personal
injury suit on grounds of judicial estoppel. According to
Boeing, the couple's failure to disclose Mr. Clark's
diagnosis during bankruptcy bars them from pursuing personal
injury claims related to that diagnosis now. The district
court agreed, granting Boeing's motion and dismissing the
Clarks' claims with prejudice.
Clark died during the pendency of the couple's appeal to
this court. But we grant to Mrs. Clark what relief we can:
the April 28, 2017 judgment of the district court granting
Boeing's motion to dismiss is VACATED,
and the case REMANDED for further
early 2010, the Clarks found themselves more than $100, 000
in debt. Seeking to regain their financial footing,
the couple filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the United
States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut.
Under the Clarks' proposed bankruptcy plan ("the
Plan"), the couple agreed to repay their creditors in
full, with interest at the federal judgment rate, over five
years through monthly payroll deductions. See 28
U.S.C. § 1961. If all conditions were met, the Clarks
would emerge from bankruptcy at the end of that period debt
free. Following a confirmation hearing held in July 2010, the
bankruptcy court set the Plan in motion.
nearly five years, everything went as planned. Each month $2,
152 was deducted from Mr. Clark's paycheck from his then
employer, Boeing, and each month the couple inched closer to
a discharge from bankruptcy. Then, only a few weeks before
the Clarks' sixtieth (and final) monthly deduction was
taken in July 2015, tragedy struck: Mr. Clark was diagnosed
Clark immediately suspected that the culprit was asbestos
exposure, which he had suffered during his two decades of
service in the United States Air Force and in his subsequent
private sector employment. Soon after being diagnosed, Mr.
Clark decided to bring suit against the corporations he
believed responsible for exposing him to the known
carcinogen. Mr. Clark-unsure of whether his bankruptcy asset
schedules needed to be updated to reflect his diagnosis and
intention to litigate-alerted his bankruptcy counsel to this
information and "trusted him to do what was required
under the law." Aff. of John Edward Clark ¶ 14