Washington Appellate Court Applies New Case Law to Bar Wrongful Death Suits if Statute of Limitations Expires on Personal Injury Claim During Decedent’s Lifetime Court of Appeals of Washington, November 9, 2015
In 2006, the plaintiff successfully sued two defendants for injuries related to the plaintiff’s workplace asbestos exposure. This judgment was vacated and remanded to federal district court, where it remained pending. The plaintiff passed away in 2012; two years later, his widow filed a wrongful death claim against new defendants. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations on a personal injury action during the decedent’s lifetime precludes a wrongful death action based on this underlying personal injury claim. The trial court denied this motion; subsequently decided case law held that there was no viable cause of action for wrongful death once the statute of limitations expires on the underlying personal injury claim during the plaintiff’s lifetime. The defendants appealed.
The appellate court reversed, finding that the new case law controls: “We conclude Deggs controls here. [Decedent] passed away over five years after he and [Plaintiff] filed his original personal injury complaint. Neither [Decedent] nor [Plaintiff] filed any claims against the new defendants related to his injuries within the three-year statute of limitations for the personal injury claims. As a result, there was “no subsisting cause of action in the deceased” at the time of [Decedent’s] death.”