A 2018 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals gave one man’s family the right to continue its legal journey for justice, while also clearing the path for other mesothelioma victims whose exposure to asbestos occurred decades ago.
Mesothelioma Victim’s Case Involved Asbestos Exposure in Early 1970
The Maryland mesothelioma case reviewed by the Court of Appeals involved James F. Piper. Mr. Piper died from malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2016, years after he worked as a steamfitter for Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO). During a two-month period in 1970, Mr. Piper was assigned to work on steam piping that was insulated with asbestos-contaminated materials.
Mr. Piper was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in 2013, and he tracked his illness to that exposure. When he filed a personal injury lawsuit against Westinghouse, the company that made the steam generator, he learned that a law had been passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 1970 that specifically prohibited victims from filing such cases for injuries that had occurred more than 20 years earlier.
Court Determines that Mesothelioma Cases Are Not Covered by 1970 Law
While a lower court granted Westinghouse summary judgment in the case based on the 1970 law, Mr. Piper’s family pursued the case in an appeal arguing that it was the date of exposure that was applicable rather than the date of diagnosis. The family maintained that since Mr. Piper’s exposure occurred prior to the law’s passage it did not apply to his injury.
Upon review of the case, the Court of Appeals agreed with the family and disagreed with two lower courts’ previous rulings. They based their decision on the use of two specific words in the law — “arise” and “accrue” — which they believed were used for the purpose of allowing long latency diseases like mesothelioma to move forward. They wrote in part, “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.’”
Their decision allowed the family to move forward, and will do the same for other, similarly situated mesothelioma victims.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.