Victims of latent asbestos related diseases have reason for hope after Indiana’s State Supreme Court Ruling
What is a product liability claim?
A product liability claim seeks to hold miners, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others along the commerce and distribution chain, responsible for the personal injury and wrongful death caused by dangerous and defective products, including, but not limited to asbestos-related injuries. Read Indiana’s Product Liability Act (IPLA).
Plaintiffs seek relief in lawsuit involving latent Mesothelioma diagnoses
Both plaintiffs were exposed to materials containing asbestos during their employment. One plaintiff, an electrician, was exposed for approximately 40 years and diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma 15 years after leaving his employment. The other plaintiff was employed by an electric utility company where he worked on and around asbestos-containing products for 15 years; he was diagnosed with mesothelioma nearly 37 years after terminating his employment. Both defendants filed separate suits naming multiple defendants. When the cases were brought before the Indiana State Supreme Court, they argued that the following provisions in Article 1 (The Bill of Rights) of the Indiana Constitution had been violated:
Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution, commonly referred to as Rights to Remedy states:
All courts shall be open; and every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law. Justice shall be administered freely, and without purchase; completely, and without denial; speedily, and without delay.
Section 23 of the constitution, commonly referred to as the Equal Privilege and Immunity Clause, states:
The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.
The argument and the ruling
Two sections (Section 1 and Section 2) in Chapter 3 of the Indiana Products Liability Act (IPLA) are at the center of the instant case.
Section 2, written by the Indiana General Assembly specifically for those with asbestos-related injuries , limits actions to those brought against persons or entities who both mined and sold commercial asbestos. Since plaintiffs sought damages from defendants who neither sold nor mined raw asbestos, they were barred from recovering damages under Section 2 and were therefore subject to the limits expressed in Section 1 of the IPLA.
Section 1 of the Indiana Product Liability Act, imposes a 10-year statute of repose upon persons exposed to dangerous and defective products. The Statute of Repose, as it is commonly called, states the product liability action must be commenced within ten years after the delivery of the product to the initial user or consumer. Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma is a disease which sometimes manifests many years after initial exposure to asbestos. Both plaintiffs were exposed to asbestos products and both developed asbestos-related diseases over a protracted period of time, greater than the 10-year statute of repose provided for in Section 1 of the IPLA.
In March of 2016 in a 3-2 split decision, the Indiana State Supreme Court, joining 3 appeals under one ruling, looked primarily at the Equal Privilege and Immunity Clause and held Section 2 of the IPLA created an impermissible disparity between classes of plaintiffs (those with claims against defendants who both mined and sold raw asbestos, and those with claims against defendants that sold asbestos-containing products) which violated Section 23 of the Indiana State Constitution, the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution. And since Section 2 of the IPLA contained special verbiage which voided the entire section if any part of the section was held invalid, all of Section 2 was deemed unconstitutional. It was further decided that the ten-year statute of repose contained in Section 1 of the Indiana Product Liability Act did not apply to claims arising out of long-term exposure to products containing asbestos. Justice Brent Dickson wrote the opinion for the majority; Chief Justice Rush and Justice Massa wrote the dissenting opinions.
Petition for Re-Hearing
Shortly after the cases were decided, defendants submitted a petition to the court requesting a re-hearing. But in a 3-2 split, on April 28, 2016, a re-hearing was denied.
Indiana Product Liability Lawyers with Experience
Don and Charlie Ward, of Ward & Ward Law Firm in Indianapolis, have more than 86 combined years successfully litigating cases against corporations both large and small for bringing dangerous products into the marketplace that may harm individuals.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers and wrongful death lawyers in Indianapolis, IN use their knowledge of the law, legislation and judicial opinions to employ strategies that maximize our clients’ financial recovery after they have experienced a life-altering accident or event caused by another person or entity. If you or someone you know has been injured by an unsafe product, involved in an accident, injured by the negligence of a medical professional, or were the victim of nursing home neglect or wrongful death, call personal injury attorney, Charlie Ward, today at (317) 639-9501 or toll free at 1 (888) 639-9501 for a free consultation.