All actions for injury or death related to asbestos are subject to a two-year statute of limitations that commences when the afflicted person is diagnosed with asbestos-related disease, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held in Wygant v. General Electric Co., __ A.3d __ (No. 470-472 WDA 2014, filed March 19, 2015). Elizabeth Wygant, the administratrix of the decedent’s estate in this case, filed wrongful death and survival actions more than two years after the decedent’s mesothelioma diagnosis but less than two years after her death. The trial court dismissed both actions as time-barred under 42 Pa. C.S. §5524(8). Wygant appealed the dismissal of her wrongful death action.
Writing for the unanimous panel, Judge Bowes first addressed the state of the law in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Neiman, 84 A.3d 603 (Pa. 2013), which struck down Act 152 and its statute of limitations for asbestos actions, 42 Pa. C.S. §5524.1, as violative of the Single Subject Rule. The Court explained that the voiding of Act 152 revived the original statute of limitations at 42 Pa. C.S. §5524(8), which Act 152 had deleted.
Turning to the merits of Wygant’s appeal, the Court held that 42 Pa. C.S. §5524(8) unambiguously states that, in all actions for injury or death related to asbestos, the two-year statute of limitations begins to run either when the afflicted person was formally diagnosed with asbestos-related disease, or, with reasonable diligence, should have been diagnosed. Acknowledging Wygant’s concern that such an interpretation may result in wrongful death actions being time-barred before they can be instituted, the Court noted that it was the legislature’s prerogative to establish a single accrual date for all asbestos claims in 42 Pa. C.S. §5524(8), and it decided not to except wrongful death actions.