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Pennsylvania Superior Court Issues Ruling Limiting Asbestos Claims

The families and loved ones of victims of asbestos-related illnesses face a number difficult challenges. There is the immediate pain that comes with seeing a person that you care about suffer from an illness, and the stress of not being able to do enough to relieve their suffering. There is the frustration of the impotence of modern medicine in the face of mesothelioma, and the mounting realization that the time left with the victim is extremely fleeting. Once the ordeal is over, they then are faced with seemingly insurmountable medical bills and the reality of a life that will be spent without the benefit of their loved one, both emotionally and financially. For many, it is not until their loved one is gone that they begin to consider filing suit against those responsible for their loss. But now a ruling by the Pennsylvania Superior Court means that they cannot wait that long.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the two-year statute of limitations that is in place for asbestos-related wrongful death claims does not begin when the victim does, but rather applies from the time that the asbestos-related injury is first diagnosed. This ruling came as a denial of a plaintiff claiming that the existing rule was unclear, and a request to be able to sue General Electric Company.

The new ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by Elizabeth Wygant on behalf of Margaret H. Klan. That case had been made more complicated by the court having struck down a state of limitations on the asbestos claims in an unrelated case. Wygant argued that the statute of limitations should have reverted back to two years after death following that ruling, but the Superior Court disagreed, saying that their ruling in that case had reenacted a previously existing statute that started at the time of the diagnosis rather than of the death. This means that the claim that Wygant submitted more than two years after Klan’s diagnosis but less than two years after her death were beyond the time allowed by the statute, and therefore barred.

The appeals court indicated that they believed that some of the arguments that Wygant made had merit, but that they were not able to change or make laws, but could only interpret them. “Some of the consequences of applying [the statute of limitations] to wrongful death actions may seem harsh.” the court said. “Admittedly some asbestos related wrongful death actions may be time-barred before they can be instituted. Nonetheless, it is the prerogative of the legislature to set the limitations on actions.”

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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