The family of James F. Piper has faced a long legal journey after his death from malignant mesothelioma in 2016, but a decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals has finally given them reason to remain hopeful.
Mr. Piper worked as a steamfitter for Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) from 1948 through 1990. During his term of employment, he worked on the steam piping at the company’s Morgantown plant. During the time, PEPCO contracted with Westinghouse Electric Corporation to build a steam turbine generator that included insulating materials that contained asbestos.
Mr. Piper was exposed to the toxic material between May 3, 1970 and June 28, 1970, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma on December 26, 2013. Though this would normally be a clear cut case, it is complicated by the fact that the Maryland General Assembly passed a law in 1970 barring claims filed over injuries more than 20 years after an injury occurred.
Westinghouse argued that the applicable date for the date of injury was the date of Mr. Piper’s diagnosis, while Piper’s family argued that it was from the date of exposure, which occurred prior to when the law was passed – and that it therefore did not apply to their case.
Even though two previous courts sided with Westinghouse in the mesothelioma lawsuit, the state’s Court of Appeals concluded that those decisions were incorrect.
Much of the conversation revolved around the use of two different words in the law: “arise” and “accrue.” The court pointed out that the previous courts had interpreted the words as being interchangeable, but the appeals court felt that it was purposeful and specifically designed to allow mesothelioma cases that had arisen prior to July 1 1970 to be filed.
The court was very specific in its treatment of asbestos-related cases, saying,
“Asbestos fibers lie dormant in the human body over a period of time. The fibers may eventually manifest into cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma.The party exposed to asbestos becomes aware of the injury only after he or she starts to experience symptoms of a latent disease, which usually occur may years after exposure. We have determined, therefore, with respect to the development of asbestos-related diseases, ‘bodily injury occurs when asbestos is inhaled and retained in the lungs.'”
The family will be able to pursue their lawsuit.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, we are here to help. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.