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Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Statutes of limitations set time limits for filing lawsuits. For personal injury claims, the statute of limitations starts at the time of diagnosis. For wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations begins at the time of death. They also vary by state.

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Understanding Statutes of Limitations

All 50 states have statutes of limitations that protect defendants from most types of litigation if enough time passes. This includes mesothelioma lawsuit statutes of limitations.

For mesothelioma cases, statutes of limitations do not follow the traditional rules.

Statutes of limitations for mesothelioma claims are difficult to determine because it’s harder to pinpoint location and time exposure. Symptoms do not arise until 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos. A person who was exposed may have worked at several places that used asbestos during that period.

Time frames for statutes of limitations also vary based on the type of claim filed.

It’s important to understand how these factors affect your ability to file a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Factors Affecting Statutes of Limitations

Type of Claim Filed

Personal Injury Cases: In most personal injury cases, a claimant knows exactly when they were injured. For pleural mesothelioma patients who file a personal injury claim, courts use the date of diagnosis as the start of the statute of limitations.

Wrongful Death Cases: The estate of mesothelioma patient may decide to file a wrong death claim if the patient already died from the disease. For those types of claims, the statute of limitations begins on the date of the patient’s death.

Location of Exposure

The state of asbestos exposure and patient’s residence also determine the duration of the statute of limitations. The location of the manufacturer or the company that used asbestos-contaminated products is important because each state has a different statute of limitations. More than one state may apply, which is why getting a mesothelioma attorney is crucial.

Landmark Statute of Limitations Lawsuits

The landmark case Borel v. Fibreboard resolved the problem of applying traditional statutes-of-limitations rules to asbestos claims.

Clarence Borel was the first plaintiff to win an asbestos lawsuit, although he did not live to see it.

From 1936 to 1969, Borel was as an industrial insulation worker. In 1969, he was diagnosed with asbestosis caused by 33 years of working with asbestos-containing insulation.

Borel filed a lawsuit, but he died of pleural mesothelioma before the trial began in 1971. His widow won the trial, and the case then went to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In its decision, the appeals court referred to other personal injury cases involving exposure to toxic substances. Those cases had already established that the statute of limitations period does not begin until the plaintiff discovers the effects of the toxic exposure.

Importance of Filing Early

It is important to find an asbestos attorney early and file a claim as soon as possible after the diagnosis.

Filing an asbestos claim takes time. Contacting a qualified lawyer soon after a diagnosis gives them enough time to properly file a claim.

A lawyer who specializes in pleural mesothelioma cases will know exactly how local statutes of limitations apply to your case. They can also determine if you can file a claim in a different state with a longer statute of limitations period.

A mesothelioma lawyer can also advise surviving family members about how statutes of limitations apply in wrongful death cases related to asbestos exposure


Danielle DiPietro

Danielle DiPietro

As a Patient Advocate, Danielle DiPietro’s mission is to guide patients through the process of pleural mesothelioma treatment, ensuring they receive the best medical, financial and emotional support available. Danielle is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs as an official Claims Agent, allowing her to provide professional guidance to veterans and family members who need to file a claim for specialized VA benefits.

Last Modified May 15, 2019

4 Cited Article Sources

  1. Find Law. (2019). Time Limits for Charges: State Criminal Statutes of Limitations. Retrieved from https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-law-basics/time-limits-for-charges-state-criminal-statutes-of-limitations.html
  2. Mehs, L. (1990). Asbestos Litigation and Statutes of Repose: The Application of the Discovery Rule in the Eighth Circuit Allows Plaintiffs to Breathe Easier. Retrieved from http://dspace.creighton.edu:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10504/39872/43_24CreightonLRev965(1990-1991).pdf?sequence=1
  3. Classen, H.W. (1987). An Investigation into the Statute of Limitations and Product Identification in Asbestos Litigation. Retrieved from http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/howlj30&div=10&id=&page
  4. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. (1973). Clarence Borel, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation et al. Retrieved from https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/493/1076/4552/

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