If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer (and has worked around asbestos or asbestos containing products), an asbestos lawsuit must be filed within a set period of time. This is called a statute of limitations. Defendants are quick to draw attention to an expired statute of limitations since even if the lawsuit is valid, the courts will not allow the lawsuit to proceed if the statute of limitations has run. Each state has its own statute of limitations deadline.
In Minnesota, there are multiple statutes of limitations that can apply to an asbestos-related lawsuit. Typically, asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits involve claims of negligence and strict liability against defendants for the manufacture, sale or use of asbestos or asbestos containing materials. For claims of negligence, the lawsuit must be commenced within six years. Minn. Stat. § 541.05 (2010). Unlike many other states, in Minnesota a lawsuit is not considered “commenced” against a defendant until that defendant is served with the lawsuit (subpoena). Minn. R. Civ. P. 3.01. And for those claims of strict liability, the lawsuit must be commenced within four years. Minn. Stat. § 541.05 (2010).
Many states follow what is called the “discovery rule,” where the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff knew or should have known that he or she had a basis for a lawsuit. Minnesota follows the “discovery rule” in asbestos cases, so the cause of action does not accrue until there is a “cognizable physical manifestation” of the asbestos-related disease and there is a “causal connection between the disease and the defendant’s product.” Hildebrandt v. Allied Corp. (1987) 839 F.2d 396, 398.
If the individual diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases passes away due to that disease, the statute of limitations does not accrue for a wrongful death action until the earlier of either the manifestation of the asbestos-related disease in a way causally linked to asbestos, or the date of death. DeCosse v. Armstrong Cork Co. ( Minn. 1982) 319 N.W.2d 45, 52. Once the statute of limitations accrues, the plaintiffs have three years to commence a wrongful death action. Minn. Stat. § 573.02 (2010).
As the statute of limitations is short, a person diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease or an heir to a person who passes away from an asbestos-related disease should quickly contact an experienced asbestos lawyer to determine if the facts warrant a lawsuit. Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason have successfully brought asbestos-related lawsuits for more than 30 years and have obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards for our clients. Please contact the mesothelioma attorneys at Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason for a free case evaluation.