North Carolina Statute of Limitations Bars Mesothelioma Claim

NORTH CAROLINA – The plaintiff, Jody Ratcliff, filed a complaint on March 1, 2017 alleging that her mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos. She sued several groups of defendants, including friction and talc defendants. She alleged that she was exposed to asbestos during the summers from 1987 to 1989 while visiting garages with her father, who was a tool salesman. She also alleged using talc products that allegedly contained asbestos, from 1977 to 2016. The four remaining defendants – Ford; Brenntag Specialties; Whittaker, Clark & Daniels; and Honeywell – all filed a motion for summary judgment based upon the statute of limitations.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma on May 5, 2005. She was relatively asymptomatic until 2010, and underwent surgery for the tumor in November of that year. The parties agreed that North Carolina law, and its corresponding three-year statute of limitations, applied. They also did not dispute that if the claim accrued before March 1, 2014, then the claim was barred. The court found that the plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2005, a fact confirmed by her own expert. The plaintiff argued that she was not reasonably on notice of the cause of her disease because her doctors did not inform her. However, the court ruled that the fact that her doctors did not believe her disease was caused by asbestos did not mean the statute of limitations was stayed.

The court ruled there was no basis on which a reasonable jury could conclude that the plaintiff’s claim did not accrue until after March 1, 2014, and, therefore, granted the motions for summary judgment.

Read the case decision here.