Massachusetts Legislators Weigh Closing Loophole That Has Barred Mesothelioma Claims

The legislators in the state of Massachusetts are considering a change to a law that has effectively blocked mesothelioma victims from seeking justice from companies that exposed them to asbestos. The state courts currently must adhere to a construction tort statute of repose that places a six-year limit on construction-related asbestos claims.


Legislative Change Inspired by State Supreme Court Ruling on Mesothelioma Case

Though Massachusetts courts have long adhered to its construction statute of repose, it was a case pursued by the estate of mesothelioma victim Wayne Oliver that raised the question in the state legislature. Mr. Oliver died of the rare form of cancer in 2016 after being exposed to asbestos while installing GE-designed steam turbine generators during the building of two power plants in the 1970s. 

Mr. Oliver’s estate was denied the ability to pursue justice following his death because of the state’s six-year statute of repose, which they argued effectively abolished mesothelioma victims’ cause of action because the disease does not begin to manifest symptoms until decades after exposure. The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Massachusetts Supreme Court Calls Mesothelioma Decision “Regrettable”

The justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court called the decision not to allow the mesothelioma claim to move forward “regrettable,” with Associate Justice Elspeth P. Cypher noting that the law as it stood effectively barred claims regarding the “design, planning, construction or general administration” of most construction projects. But she also said that the law was clear. She wrote in part, “The appropriate recourse is in the Legislature, not this court.”

Four years later, representatives to the state legislature are working to make things more fair for mesothelioma victims by adding a single sentence to the current statute of repose that would say, “Nothing in this section shall apply to any tort actions for damages due to latent diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances including, but not limited to asbestos.”

If you or someone you love needs information on your rights regarding asbestos-related illnesses, the Patient Advocates at can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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