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Cetrulo LLP Played Key Role in Obtaining Supreme Judicial Court Ruling Favorable to Toxic Tort Defendants

On March 1, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling highly favorable to toxic tort Defendants in the matter Stearns v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.  In its decision, the Court held that the Massachusetts Statute of Repose, G.L. c. 260, § 2B operates to “completely eliminate all tort claims arising out of any deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property after the established [six-year] time period has run, even if the cause of action arises from a disease with an extended latency period, and even if a defendant had knowing control of the instrumentality of the injury at the time of exposure” (emphasis added).

In its decision, the Court denied Plaintiff’s request that the Court “imply exceptions to §2B where there are none,” namely with respect to latent diseases and in instances where Defendants purportedly maintained control over the instrumentality of the injury. In rejecting the Plaintiff’s position, the Court held that the Statute of Repose was an “iron clad rule” which is “clear and unambiguous,” as well as “unequivocal,” and acts as an “absolute time limit” on claims which “may not be tolled for any reason.” The Court also reiterated that the Statute of Repose “serves a legitimate public purpose,” namely the decision by the Legislature to curtail the exposure of participants in the construction industry “to possible liability throughout their professional lives and into retirement.”  The Court held that the Legislature, in enacting the Statute of Repose, struck what it viewed as a “reasonable balance between the public’s right to a remedy and the need to place an outer limit on the tort liability of those involved in construction.”  The Court expressly held that “[t]he Plaintiff’s case is no exception” to the absolute protection afforded by the Statute of Repose.

Cetrulo LLP, acting as Defendants’ Liaison Counsel in the Massachusetts Asbestos Litigation played a key role in obtaining the favorable decision, as the Court relied, in part, on an amicus brief drafted by Cetrulo LLP partners Lawrence G. Cetrulo, Stephen T. Armato, Whitney K. Barrows and associate attorneys Elizabeth S. Dillon, Lauren K. Camire and Brian D. Fishman.

The Court’s decision is available here.

Cetrulo LLP’s amicus brief is available here.



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