Pennsylvania Mesothelioma Lawsuit Statute of Limitations
In Pennsylvania, the mesothelioma statutes of limitations was determined by the state legislature following the enactment of Pennsylvania mesothelioma and asbestos laws.
The original rationale for establishing statutes of limitations was to ensure that cases were brought within a reasonable time after the occurrence of the events giving rise to the personal injury claim or wrongful death claim. This allows evidence to be gathered while the claims of injury can be verified or corroborated. It also enables defendants to plan for their potential liability.
The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 42 section 5524 prescribes the state the statutes of limitations for mesothelioma and asbestos cases and also when the cause of action "accrues".
The cause of action is said to accrue when the plaintiff suffers actual harm or should have reasonably discovered that they had been harmed.
The alternatives for mesothelioma victims who miss their window to file a claim are very limited. In most cases, their only recourse will be to file a claim with the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Bureau. There are, however, a few exceptions where the mesothelioma statute of limitations may be extended.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations on Mesothelioma Claims
As specified in 42 Pa.C.S.A. 5524, the statutes of limitations for personal injury actions like mesothelioma claims in Pennsylvania is two years from the date of the injury.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the injured party did not discover their injury until after the two-year period had elapsed, they might have up to two years from the date of discovery to file a claim.
Additionally, if the defendant is a government entity, the personal injury claimant has only six months to file a notice of intent to sue and one year to file suit. Furthermore, if the claimant is a minor, they have until their 20th birthday to file suit. And, if the claimant is mentally disabled, they have two years from the date their disability is removed to file suit.
Asbestos Lawsuits Statute of Limitations by Pennsylvania Judicial District
While the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes C.S.A.(42 Pa.C.S.) provides a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions, including asbestos lawsuits, federal district courts in Pennsylvania operate by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP).
The FRCP also provides a two-year mesothelioma statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, but only offers claimants 6 months to file the notice of intent to sue. However, the FRCP also contains an "equitable tolling" provision that can suspend or extend the statute of limitations under certain circumstances. For an asbestos claim to be heard by a federal court, in selected cases, the case may be filed in state court and then "removed" to federal court by the defendant.
When a case is removed, the statute of limitations is tolled (or paused) from the date the case was originally filed in state court until it is removed to federal court. Hence, if more than three years have passed since the date of injury, but the case was initially filed in state court and removed to federal court within that period, a federal court may still hear the case.
The two-year statute of limitations for asbestos cases in Pennsylvania state courts will not bar a claim from being heard in federal district court if the case is timely removed. However, there may be other procedural barriers to bringing a lawsuit in federal courts, such as the plaintiff's requirement to show "diversity of citizenship" between the parties (meaning that the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of different states).
What are the Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania?
The factors affecting mesothelioma statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania are as follows:
- The age of the victim at the time of diagnosis: In Pennsylvania, the victim's age is a significant factor in determining the statute of limitations for mesothelioma cases. If the victim is under 18, they have until their 20th birthday to file a claim. If the victim is over the age of 18, they have up to two years from the date of diagnosis to file a claim.
- The date of diagnosis: In Pennsylvania, the date of diagnosis is also a significant factor in determining the statute of limitations for mesothelioma cases. If the victim is diagnosed with mesothelioma on or after their 55th birthday, they have up to three years to file a claim from the date of diagnosis.
- The date of last exposure to asbestos: In Pennsylvania, the date of previous exposure to asbestos is another significant factor in determining the statute of limitations for mesothelioma cases. If the victim was last exposed to asbestos more than 20 years before their diagnosis, they have up to two years from the date of last exposure to file a claim unless they aren't aware of the diagnosis.
- The type of mesothelioma: In Pennsylvania, the type of mesothelioma is also a significant factor in determining the statute of limitations for mesothelioma cases. If the mesothelioma patient has pleural mesothelioma, they have up to two years from diagnosis to file a claim. If the victim has peritoneal mesothelioma, they have up to three years from diagnosis to file a claim.
- The stage of mesothelioma: In Pennsylvania, the stage of mesothelioma is also a significant factor in determining the statute of limitations for mesothelioma cases. Mesothelioma patients with stage I or II mesothelioma, they have up to two years from the date of discovery to file a claim. If the victim has stage III or IV mesothelioma, they have up to one year from the date of diagnosis to file a claim.
Other factors include the victim's employment history and whether or not the victim was exposed to asbestos before the development of mesothelioma. If the victim is over the age of 70, they may have up to five years to file a claim.
How to Determine Whether Your Mesothelioma Claim is Within the Statute of Limitations
To determine whether a Pennsylvania mesothelioma claim is within the statute of limitations, the claimant must first consider the date of their diagnosis.
Since Pennsylvania state law provides a two-year window from the date of diagnosis to file a mesothelioma claim, it is a crucial part of the claim process. Mesothelioma patients can establish the date of their diagnosis using medical records, pathology reports, and radiology reports.
In addition, the claimant must also consider the date of their last exposure to asbestos, as this may also play a role in the statute of limitations. They can review work records, military service records, and union records to confirm the exposure date. Once the date of diagnosis and exposure have been established, the claimant can determine whether their claim is within the statute of limitations.
What is the Pennsylvania Statute on Asbestos Lawsuit Payouts?
According to Title 42, section 4302 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, a claimant is entitled to receive their court-ordered compensation or payout within 30 days after the judgment has been entered. If the judgment includes interest, the claimant is also entitled to receive that interest within 30 days.
If the defendant fails to pay the claimant their court-ordered compensation or payout within 30 days, the claimant may file a contempt of court action against the defendant. In the case of personal injury claims involving asbestos, claimants may also be entitled to receive punitive damages and compensatory damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer, deter future misconduct, and are not capped like compensatory damages. As such, they can potentially result in much higher payouts for claimants.
Pennsylvania mesothelioma compensations can be disbursed through:
- Lump-sum: A one-time payment of the entire compensation awarded to the personal injury claimant at one
- Annuity: This is a long-term financial product that makes periodic payments to the personal injury or wrongful death claimant(s) over a set period, usually for the rest of their life.
- Structured settlement: This is similar to an annuity, but the payments are larger and less frequent. They are typically paid out over a period of years.
Statute of Limitations on Mesothelioma Claims by Claim Type
There are several mesothelioma claims in Pennsylvania. They are thus subject to the state's statutes of limitations. The three most common types of these claims are personal injury, asbestos exposure and wrongful death claims
Personal Injury Claims
As prescribed by 42 Pa. Const Stat. § 5524, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date the mesothelioma diagnosis was made or should have reasonably been made.
Asbestos Exposure Claims
In Pennsylvania, these claims are covered under the state's "asbestos-disease" law. This law (§ 5524.1) provides that an employee exposed to asbestos while on the job can file a claim against their employer within one year of discovering the asbestos-related disease.
Wrongful Death Claims
In Pennsylvania, wrongful death claims are typically filed by the family members or estate executor of the decedent. The statute of limitations for these claims is two years from the wrongful death, this is specified in 42 Pa. C.S.A. Section 8301
Other Mesothelioma Claim Types
- Workers' compensation claims: In Pennsylvania, workers' compensation claims must be filed within three years of injury.
- Claims against the government: Claims against the government must be filed within two years of the injury's date.
- Class action lawsuits: Class action lawsuits have a statute of limitations of four years from when the injury occurred. They may be filed by both personal injury and wrongful death claimants
- Asbestos trust funds: In Pennsylvania, asbestos trust funds typically operate independently and may not have a statute of limitations set in stone. However, these trusts were designed to provide compensation to mesothelioma patients and may be a suitable alternative to filing personal injury lawsuits or wrongful death cases in court.
What are My Mesothelioma Compensation Options in Pennsylvania?
There are several mesothelioma compensation options for claimants in Pennsylvania. Claimants may file a claim with the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Board or file a civil lawsuit against the responsible parties.
The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Board provides benefits to claimants who were exposed to asbestos in the course of their employment.
Claimants must have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease to be eligible for benefits. The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Board benefits include medical expenses and income replacement.
Other compensation options include filing for Social Security Disability benefits or Veterans' Benefits.
Compensation Options if Your Mesothelioma Statute of Limitations Expires in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for mesothelioma lawsuits is two years from diagnosis. If the claimant misses the window to file a lawsuit, they may still be able to seek compensation through other avenues.
One option for those who have missed the deadline to file a lawsuit is to apply for benefits through the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation program. This program provides benefits to workers who have been injured on the job, including those exposed to asbestos.
After the statute of limitations has expired, another option for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is to file a claim with the Pennsylvania Asbestos Exposure Compensation Fund. This fund was created to provide compensation to those who have been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
Claimants must meet specific criteria to be eligible for benefits from either of these programs.
Other compensation options after the mesothelioma lawsuit statute of limitations expired in Pennsylvania include:
- Filing a claim with the Veterans' Administration
- Applying for Social Security disability benefits
- Pursuing a wrongful death claim if the claimant dies
Pennsylvania Asbestos Litigation After Statute of Limitations Elapses
If the statute of limitations expires on a Pennsylvania mesothelioma claim, the claimant may still have a few asbestos litigation alternatives.
One option would be to file a motion to toll the mesothelioma statute of limitations. This means that the court will suspend the running of the statute of limitations for a certain period. This can be done if the claimant can show that they were unable to file the claim earlier due to extenuating circumstances.
An alternative is to file a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). This act allows claimants to sue the federal government for injuries caused by government employees or agencies. Claimants must first exhaust all administrative remedies before bringing a lawsuit under this act.
Another option for claimants who cannot file their claim before the statute of limitations expires is to file a claim under the Pennsylvania Asbestos Exposure and Occupational Disease Act. This act allows claimants to bring a claim against an employer who has exposed them to asbestos.
An experienced mesothelioma attorney may also argue against the validity of the claims filed based on medical procedure adopted to diagnose the claimant the first time around. If the claimant hadn't sought professional medical advice or if the medical establishment or professional had been stripped of their license in subsequent years, their diagnosis may be considered inapplicable in a personal injury claim.
What is the Discovery Rule for Asbestos Claims in Pennsylvania?
Under Pennsylvania law, the discovery rule applies to both mesothelioma and wrongful death cases, its provisions are specified in 231 Pa. Code Chapter 4000. Per this rule, statute of limitations for filing a claim does not begin to run until the injured party discovers, or should have discovered, that they have been exposed to asbestos and that this exposure has resulted in an injury.
This rule is important because exposure to asbestos can often take many years to result in an injury, such as mesothelioma. Without the discovery rule, people who have been injured by asbestos would often be unable to file a claim because the mesothelioma statute of limitations would have already expired.
In addition to the discovery rule, this code also includes a provision known as the "gaps and tolling" rule. This rule applies when an injured party cannot discover their injury until after the statute of limitations has expired. In these cases, the court may toll, or suspend, the statute of limitations for a certain period so that the injured party can still file a claim.
While the discovery rule and gaps and tolling provisions are both parts of Pennsylvania's constitution, different courts have interpreted them differently. The discovery rule essentially allows a plaintiff to file a lawsuit within a certain time after discovering their injury, regardless of when the injury actually occurred. On the other hand, the tolling rule suspends the statute of limitations for a certain period of time under specific circumstances.
What if I Have More Than One Asbestos Disease?
The statute of limitations for an asbestos claim in Pennsylvania can vary depending on the plaintiff's type of asbestos disease. If the plaintiff has mesothelioma, they will have two years from diagnosis to file a claim. If the plaintiff has lung cancer or asbestosis, they will have one year from diagnosis to file a claim.
There is no statute of limitations for claims involving asbestos exposure (where there has not been a mesothelioma diagnosis), so these types of claims can be filed at any time. If the plaintiff is found to have multiple asbestos-related diseases, the statute of limitations will be based on the disease that is most severe and when the diseases were diagnosed.
It is important to note that the statute of limitations for asbestos claims may be impacted by whether or not the plaintiff had multiple sources of exposure to asbestos. Ultimately, a mesothelioma lawyer will be best suited to offer insight on the legal process when multiple asbestos related diseases are concerned.