• September 24, 2014

PoisonUpdate (September 24, 2014): The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected the petition for review in the case discussed below. Presumably the Minnesota Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Appeals determination that the Minnesota legislature “has had decades to respond to [the Minnesota case on which the Walsh Court relied], [and the legislature] has declined to remove or alter the general six-year statute of repose for long-term exposure claims or latent defect/injury claims.”

Original Post (July 11, 2014): Dean Patrick Walsh (hereinafter “Mr. Walsh”) worked as a full-time union pressman at the Minneapolis Star Tribune from 1966 until he retired in 2004. In 2009, Mr. Walsh was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and he succumbed to the disease on June 30, 2009.

Let’s assume that Walsh’s illness was the result of his exposure to the toxic solvent, benzene, during his time working at the presses of the Star Tribune. Let’s further assume that the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim based on Walsh’s exposure to this “insidious chemical” is six years.

Would a lawsuit brought on behalf of Walsh’s estate in June of 2012 be time-barred?

It would not be time-barred if you started the “six year clock” from the time of Walsh’s diagnosis or from the time of his death. It would be if you started the “six year clock” from the time of Walsh’s last exposure to benzene.

This week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that Mr. Walsh’s claim (or, more accurately, the claim of his estate, brought by his widow) is time-barred under Minnesota law.

So we’re clear, this would appear to mean that someone could be exposed to some latent insidious and slow-acting poison. And if the poison’s deadly consequences first became known over six years later, the victim (or his surviving heirs and kin) would seem to have no claim, the wrong-doer would seem to have no risk of liability under this analysis.

The Court of Appeals pointed out that the Minnesota legislature “has had decades to respond to [the Minnesota case on which the Walsh Court relied], [and the legislature] has declined to remove or alter the general six-year statute of repose for long-term exposure claims or latent defect/injury claims.”

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