A woman in Pennsylvania had filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate of a woman who died as a result of mesothelioma. The problem for her case was that she had filed it 17 months after the mesothelioma death, but the case was time-barred by the statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations are laws enacted in every state that control the time a person has to bring a lawsuit. Some statutes of limitation are very broad and cover a variety of issues, others are quite narrow and govern particular actions. In this case, there was additional complexity, as the statute of limitation related to asbestos cases was ruled unconstitutional.
The woman argued that because the statute of limitation had been struck down, there was no statute governing asbestos cases, so her case was not stopped by the statute’s one-year limitation.
The reviewing court found that the original statute of limitation remained in place, as the repealing language was contained in the statute that was struck down, so its repeal of the original limitation period was no longer effective.
For mesothelioma victims in California, this case serves as a warning. California too, has a one-year statute of limitations for asbestos cases, which begins to run either when you suffer a legislatively defined disability from the asbestos, or when you knew or should have known that you have a disability that was caused by the asbestos.
A similar standard governs decedent’s estates, like the one in the Pennsylvania case. If you have any reasons to suspect that you are developing an asbestos-related illness, you should speak with an attorney and discuss the fact of your case.
It is ironic than it can take 30 years or more to develop mesothelioma, but you only have a year to file a case. Developing mesothelioma is a tragedy, but losing any chance for compensation because you or your family failed to file a case on time only compounds the tragedy.