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Washington Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal on Statute of Limitations Grounds of Wrongful Death Claim

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One, June 22, 2015

This case dates back to 1999, when the plaintiff commenced an action against a plethora of asbestos defendants, claiming a nonmalignant asbestos-related injury. The case was tried to verdict in 2001, with the jury awarding $451,900 in economic damages, $700,000 in noneconomic damages, and $360,000 in loss of consortium damages. In 2010, the plaintiff died of lymphoma, which resulted in a wrongful death action being commenced against other defendants not sued in the original action. The same relief was sought as in the 1999 action, with the exception of funeral expenses. Several defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the statute of limitations expired on the underlying asbestos claims. The lower court agreed and dismissed the complaint.

On appeal, the Washington Appellate Court upheld the dismissal, reasoning as follows: “Deggs’s claims against respondents fail as a matter of law. Sundberg had no valid cause of action against respondents at the time of his death, because there was either a judgment rendered in his favor or because he failed to bring an action for injuries within the statute of limitations period during his lifetime. Case law in Washington does not support Deggs’s argument that would revive a wrongful death action when an individual dies no matter what was or was not already litigated during his lifetime. Moreover, Deggs’s position is at odds with considerations of finality of judgments and preservation of evidence that are particularly relevant in this context.”

Read the full decision here.

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