Certain kinds of injuries may not be discovered for many years. In many of these cases, Maryland law provides relief to the victims by allowing them to bring a negligence claim once they realize they have been injured. In a March 28, 2018 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland personal injury case against a manufacturing corporation, among others, alleging that he was exposed to asbestos contained in components it manufactured and supplied in 1970. After his death, his estate was substituted as a party. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The matter was then brought before the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
The plaintiff in the case worked as a steamfitter. In 1970, he worked on steam piping that connected two turbines, which were installed at the same time. The turbines were insulated with materials containing asbestos. In 2013, the plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma and filed suit the next year against multiple defendants, including the defendant who was responsible for constructing the turbines. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of repose as currently enacted. The plaintiff responded that his claims arose in 1970, prior to the enactment of the current statute, and as a result, it could not apply retroactively to his claims.
A statute of repose is essentially a deadline cutting off any exceptions that allow plaintiffs to bring suit after the ordinary deadline under the statute of limitations has passed. The discovery rule is one such exception that allows a plaintiff to bring an action three years from the date he knew or reasonably should have known of the wrong.