Decedent’s Failure to Bring Personal Injury Claims for Known Asbestos Injuries Within Statute of Limitations Period During His Lifetime Barred Wrongful Death Suit

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The decedent died of several asbestos related diseases in 2011; he was diagnosed with these diseases in 2003. The plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim against manufacturers and distributors of asbestos containing products, and the defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not bring a wrongful death claim because the decedent failed to bring a personal injury claim within three years of discovering his asbestos-related diseases. The trial court granted summary judgment, and the appellate court affirmed.

The plaintiff argued that a wrongful death claim is independent of a personal injury claim.  In Washington, wrongful death is a statutory tort with a three year statute of limitations.  This court had recently held that a decedent must have a valid subsisting cause of action at the time of death for a wrongful death claim to accrue. It further determined that “’a decedent’s inaction as to his claims during his lifetime can preempt the accrual of a personal representative’s wrongful death cause of action.’” In reaching this conclusion, the court analyzed three Washington Supreme Court cases. Here, the decedent’s inaction during his lifetime extinguished his personal injury claims and the wrongful death claim is barred.

Read the full decision here.