Massachusetts Supreme Court Rejects Late-Filed Claim Despite Plaintiff’s Lack of Knowledge

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The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently issued a decision discussing whether a plaintiff could file an asbestos claim beyond the time period set forth in the statute in cases involving diseases with extended latency periods. In this case, the claim was filed after a man died in 2016 of mesothelioma after he was exposed to asbestos when he working on the construction of two nuclear power plants in the 1970s. If you or a loved one was similarly exposed, reach out to a Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff came into contact with asbestos between 1971 and 1978, and received his diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma in April 2015. In August 2015, he filed a claim alleging that General Electric had negligently exposed him to asbestos. General Electric designed and manufactured certain parts in the plant, and used insulation materials containing asbestos.

Under Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 260, section 2B, there is a six-year statute of repose for tort claims arising out of a deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction, or general administration of an improvement to real property. The statute states that tort claims cannot be filed more than six years after the earlier of the following dates: 1) “the opening of the improvement to use,” or 2) “substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession for occupancy by the owner.”

Statutes of Repose

A statute of repose, like a statute of limitations, sets a limit on the time period in which a particular claim can be filed. However, while a statute of limitations may be extended in some circumstances, a statute of repose places “an absolute time limit on liability,” and abolishes the plaintiff’s claim, “even if the plaintiff’s injury does not occur, or is not discovered, until after the statute’s time limit has expired.” As the court explained in this case, unlike a statute of limitation, a statute of repose may not be tolled, or extended, for any reason.

In this case, the Court concluded that under section 2B, all tort claims are barred that arise out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property after the statute of repose has run. The court decided that this is true even where the claim arises from a disease with an extended latency period, and where a defendant had knowing control of the instrumentality of injury at the time of exposure.

The court determined that the statute of repose under Section 2B cannot be tolled for any reason. The court recognized that finding that the law would bar most tort claims arising from the negligent use or handling of asbestos in construction claims. However, the court explained that the state legislature was responsible for creating laws, and therefore it was the legislature’s responsibility to change the law as it sees fit. The legislature did not provide an exception to the statute of repose, and, therefore, the statute could not be tolled in this case.

Contact the Neumann Law Group

If you have been injured due to someone else’s wrongdoing, contact the Neumann Law Group. Attorney Kelly Neumann is an award-winning personal injury lawyer who leads a team of dedicated attorneys with a track record of success handling all types of personal injury cases, including Massachusetts medical malpractice cases. Our practice has over 200 years of combined experience and we are dedicated to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain the compensation they deserve. Call us at 1-800-525-NEUMANN or complete our online form to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Posts:

Court Determines Germany Manufacturer May Be Liable in Massachusetts for Workplace Injury Case, Massachusetts Injury Lawyer Blog, February 22, 2019.

Massachusetts Appeals Court Declines to Apply Exception to 30-Day Notice Requirement in Recent Slip-and-Fall Case, Massachusetts Injury Lawyer Blog, February 13, 2019.

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