The statute of limitations is the time in which a person must file a lawsuit claiming harm. The actual time given varies by state, some states have a statute of limitations of only one year while others allow two or three years. Typically, the statute of limitations begins running at the time a person reasonably knew or should have known that a specific event or item caused him or her harm.
In many drug cases, for example, the statute of limitations could start running at the time a drug’s label is updated to reflect a certain side effect. But working with asbestos drilling mud makes the timeline for the statute of limitations much less clear.
First, it can be decades after the exposure to the drilling mud that the employees develop breathing problems or symptoms of lung damage. Even then, those exposed to the asbestos might not realize that it was the asbestos that caused them harm. Some lung problems can be caused by a variety of factors other than asbestos exposure. Furthermore, many employees say they were not warned by their employers about the risks associated with asbestos exposure, so they did not know their lung cancer or other health problems could have been linked to their work.
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The court found that although he experienced shortness of breath in 1995, Lofton was only diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis - which is not always indicative of asbestosis - in 2003 and was not given a definitive diagnosis of asbestosis until 2010, meaning he did not have reason to think his employment caused his lung problems until 2003 at the earliest and 2010 at the latest. Lofton’s lawsuit was filed in 2004, which the Mississippi Supreme Court found was within the statute of limitations.
Despite that finding, the court ordered a new trial, finding that evidence submitted by the plaintiffs was admitted on error.