Massachusetts Statute of Repose Bars Construction-Related Asbestos Claims

In Stearns v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the Massachusetts Supreme Court addressed whether the six-year statute of repose for claims against those involved the design, planning, construction, or general administration of improvements to real property, applies to asbestos personal injury claims, which would typically arise after the statue would bar their assertion. The statute at issue, Mass. Gen. Laws. c. 260 Section 2B, provides in relevant part that:

“Action[s] of tort for damages arising out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property … shall be commenced only within three years next after the cause of action accrues; provided, however, that in no event shall such actions be commenced more than six years after the earlier of the dates of: (1) the opening of the improvement to use; or (2) substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession for occupancy by the owner.”

In opposition to a summary judgment motion seeking to bar the plaintiff’s asbestos-related claims, the plaintiff asserted two implicit exceptions to the application of the statute of repose, arguing that claims arising from diseases with long latency, or alternatively, claims that a defendant “had knowing control of the instrumentality of injury at the time of exposure,” were outside of the intent of the statute. The Supreme Court rejected both of plaintiff’s arguments, reasoning that the language of the statute was “unequivocal.”

Read the full decision here.