Washington’s Statute of Repose Determined to Not Apply to Premises Owners

WASHINGTON – For approximately seven months in 1971, Gary Cameron worked as a boilermaker at the Centralia Steam Plant in Washington State during its construction, which was completed in 1972. Asbestos-containing thermal insulation was used in building the plant, and Cameron’s estate alleged that his fatal mesothelioma was caused in part by exposures during his time at Centralia. They sued appellee PacifiCorp, who was among those responsible for constructing the plant, and who maintained an ownership interest until 2000, bringing claims against them as both a builder and a premises owner.

PacifiCorp moved for a dismissal under statute of repose, which the trial court granted. The Cameron estate appealed.  Washington’s legislature enacted its first statute of repose in 1967, which was amended in 1986 and again in 2004. The appellate court determined that the 1967 version of the statute applied, as construction of the Centralia plant was substantially completed in 1972. They further determined that later amendments to the statute of repose did not apply retroactively.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court that the 1967 statute barred claims arising out of PacifiCorp’s construction activities. However, they determined that the 1967 statute of repose did not protect premises owners who were sued in their capacity as owners. They noted that the record showed that PacifiCorp was not solely an uninvolved premises owner, but that they also performed engineering and construction observation services during the construction of the plant. The court declined to review Cameron’s claims that the Washington legislature did not intend for the statute of repose to apply to latent occupational diseases such as mesothelioma.

The case summary is provided with permission from Westlaw here.