Statute of Repose Bars Some Asbestos-Related Claims, Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules

When you have been injured because of a dangerous condition in the workplace, it can be hard to know what to what to do next, but rest assured that we are here to help. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., our reputable Massachusetts personal injury attorneys are committed to getting clients the full and fair compensation they deserve. We keep track of evolving case law so we can build the strongest possible case for you.. You can take comfort in knowing that we will make sure your rights are preserved and that you receive the personalized and detail-oriented representation you deserve.

The Case

In Stearns v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) recently published a ruling regarding whether a plaintiff could file an asbestos claim after the time period outlined in the statute in cases concerning diseases with lengthy periods of latency.

The facts of the case are as follows: The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent, a man who was employed as a pipe inspector for General Electric (GE) in the 1970s during a project constructing two nuclear power plants. About four decades later, the man died in 2016 of mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos on the project.

GE filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the protection of Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 260, section 2B, under which there is a six-year statute of repose for claims stemming from any tort action alleging deficiency or neglect in the ‘design, planning, construction or general administration or an improvement to real property.’ The court denied the motion for summary judgment, expressly acknowledging the absence of state law on the application of Section 2B in asbestos claims. Nonetheless, the court explained it was not clear that the six-year statute of repose was intended to prohibit a class of claims known consistently to have a latency period of twenty years as this would have the effect of not just limiting liability but barring it altogether.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruling

The SJC concluded that section 2B completely eliminates all tort claims arising out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property, including personal injury asbestos exposure claims which have a long latency period and where a defendant had knowing control of the instrumentality of injury at the time of exposure. As such, the statute of repose under Section 2B cannot be tolled for any reason six years after either the opening of the improvement for use or the owner taking possession of the improvement for occupation upon substantial completion, whichever happens first. In reaching its decision, the SJC also relied on the history and intent of Section 2B, as well as the clear language of the statute.

Trusted and Reputable Massachusetts Injury Attorney

If you have been injured on the job, you should reach out to a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., we have over 25 years of experience handling a broad range of legal matters and we will apply our knowledge to your case. For more information, please feel free to call us today at 1-800-262-9200 or contact us online.

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