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Massachusetts – Timing to File an Asbestos Related Lawsuit

Asbestos, a naturally occurring yet carcinogenic mineral, was added to thousands of industrial and construction products until the early 1980’s.  Known asbestos exposure sites in Massachusetts include any power plants, shipyards, refineries, shipyards, and sites that involved construction, remodeling, repair or demolition of buildings constructed before 1980.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.  Mesothelioma or asbestos lawsuits, however, must be filed within a set period of time.  This is called a statute of limitations.  If the statute of limitations has expired relative to your set of facts, the defendants will use this to say that your asbestos-related lawsuit may not be able to go forward.  Each state has its own statute of limitations deadline. 

Massachusetts does not have a specific asbestos-related statute of limitations statute and does not appear to have had many asbestos-related lawsuits filed.  Thus, the statute of limitations for asbestos-related actions in Massachusetts is governed by the general tort statute of limitations statute, which sets the statute of limitations as three years from the date the cause of action accrued.  ALM GL ch. 260, § 2A (2010). 

Massachusetts follows the “discovery rule” in cases where the injury is an inherently unknowable wrong.  Although no case has specifically applied the “discovery rule” to asbestos cases, it would likely do so given the chance.  Following the “discovery rule,” the cause of action does not accrue until the plaintiff knew or should have known that he or she had an asbestos-related disease and knew or should have known that the disease was caused by exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing products.  See Gore v. Daniel O'Connell's Sons, Inc. ( 1984) 17 Mass. App. Ct. 645, 647-648 [applies the “discovery rule” to another personal injury case, but cites to asbestos lawsuits in another jurisdiction as an example of a case where the “discovery rule” was applied].   

If the individual diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease passes away due to that asbestos-related disease, the statute of limitations is three years from either the date of death or from the date when the heirs knew or should have known of the factual basis for a cause of action.  ALM GL ch. 229, § 2 (2010). 

As the statute of limitations is relatively short, a person diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease or an heir to a person who passes away from an asbestos-related disease should immediately contact an attorney to determine if the facts warrant an asbestos-related lawsuit.  Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason have successfully brought asbestos-related lawsuits for more than 30 years and obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards for our clients.  Please contact the lawyers at Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason for a free case evaluation.