Massachusetts Court Rules Statute of Repose for Torts Arising out of Improvements to Real Property is Not Tolled in Cases Involving Latent Disease

It is commonly understood that parties harmed due to someone else’s negligence must pursue their claim within the time frame set forth by the applicable statute of limitations, otherwise they waive the right to recover. In certain instances, a statute of limitations can be tolled, such as in cases where an illness or defect could not have been discovered within the time permitted. In other cases, a statute of repose applies and strictly limits the time frame in which a case can be pursued.

Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the six-year statute of repose for tort actions arising out of improvements to real property related operated to eliminate all claims after the applicable period has run, even if the cause of action was not discoverable within that time frame. If you suffered harm due to exposure to a dangerous chemical or product you should meet with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss the facts of your case and your potential claim for compensation.

Alleged Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Harm

Reportedly, the defendant manufactured and sold turbine generators and directed that asbestos be used in the installation of the generators. The defendant also supervised the installations. The plaintiff’s decedent was exposed to asbestos during the installation of the generators in two different power plants, which were constructed between 1971 and 1978. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015 and subsequently sued the defendant, alleging the defendant negligently exposed the him to asbestos during the construction of the plants. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the claims were barred by the six-year statute of repose for tort actions arising out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, administration, or construction of any improvement to real property. The district court stated that it was unclear whether the statue applied to cases involving diseases with extended latency periods and certified the question to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

The Court’s Analysis Regarding the Statue of Repose

A court must interpret a statute according to the legislature’s intent, and the intent is obvious when the language is clear and unambiguous. Here, the court noted that a statute of repose differed from a statute of limitations, in that under Massachusetts law, a statute of repose cannot be tolled for any reason. Further, the court stated that a statute of repose eliminates a cause of action regardless of whether it has accrued by the specified date. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the subject statute of repose did not apply to cases involving diseases with long latency periods, such as mesothelioma, finding that the language of the statute was clear.

Further, the court noted that if the legislature had intended to exempt claims arising negligent exposure to asbestos from the statute of repose, it would have done so. As such, the court held that the applicable statute of repose completely barred all tort claims arising out of neglect or deficiencies in the construction of real property, regardless of whether the cause of action arises from a disease not discoverable during the established time period.

Consult an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one are suffering from an illness caused by exposure to a harmful chemical, you should consult an experienced seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney to determine your options for pursuing compensation.  The personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you seek any damages you may be owed. We can be reached at 508-822-6600 or through our online form to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

More Blog Posts:

First Circuit Addresses Deceased Massachusetts Asbestos-Related Claim, February 18, 2015, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog