Maryland court rules statute of repose bars man's estate from suing CBS in asbestos case

By Melissa Busch | Jun 13, 2017

BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has upheld a judgment in favor of CBS Corp., contending that a statute of repose barred a man from suing the company in an asbestos case.

On May 31, the court affirmed the summary judgment by the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in favor of CBS. The court found the statute of repose, a much stricter deadline than a statute of limitations, barred June Diane Duffy, the personal representative of the estate of James F. Piper, from filing a claim against CBS.

Piper, a former plumber and steamfitter, died in June 2016 from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer often caused by asbestos exposure.

CBS is a Delaware corporation that is the successor by merger to a Pennsylvania corporation bearing the same name, which was formerly known as Westinghouse Electric Corp. In early 1970, Westinghouse entered into a contract with the Potomac Electric Power Co. to sell a turbine generator for Pepco’s Morgantown Generating Station in Woodzell, Maryland. 

Piper worked as a steamfitter at the station. Though he did not install the turbine generator, which included the use of insulation that contained asbestos, he was exposed to the carcinogen because he worked in the area where it was being installed, according to court records. 

Insulation installation was completed on June 28, 1970, and the turbine was operational the following month.

In 2014, Piper sued CBS. CBS filed for a summary judgment, and the circuit court ruled in its favor in March 2015. Piper appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, claiming the lower court erred in granting CBS’ motion for summary judgment.

The appeals court ruled the simple language of the statute of repose bars Piper’s cause of action against because the statute of repose began when his mesothelioma was diagnosed in December 2013, which was more than 20 years after the turbine generator installed by Westinghouse at Morgantown became operational in July 1970.

According to the court opinion, the manufacturer’s exemption does not apply in this case because the application of such exemption would unconstitutionally deprive CBS of its vested right in not being sued for causes of action barred by the statute of repose prior to the exemption’s enactment in 1991.

“Accordingly, the trial court did not err in granting CBS’s motion for summary judgment,” according to the opinion.

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