Northam signs Guzman bill to give Virginians with latent diseases their day in court
Gov. Ralph Northam has signed Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s bill to change the date at which the statute of limitations begins to run in personal injury cases involving toxic substances or defective products from the time of “first injury” to the date of discovery.
Under current law, only asbestos-related products are subject to the date of discovery – the time at which a plaintiff knows or should have known of the injury and its causal connection to an injury-causing substance or product.
The new law will take effect July 1.
In November, a Fourth Circuit panel threw out a case in which a coal miner who had developed Black Lung had sued the manufacturers of allegedly faulty respirators. In dismissing the case, the panel noted, “we would be remiss in remaining silent about the manifest unfairness that it poses to plaintiffs,” and added “we therefore join other state and federal courts in recognizing that Virginia law essentially bars certain plaintiffs from recovery.”
The panel wrote that the plaintiff faced “a catch-22 from which Virginia law provides no escape. If he brought his claims within the two-year statute of limitations, he would have been unable to prove them, because doctors at the time had not clinically correlated his symptoms with CWP. Now that he can prove his injuries were caused by the inhalation of coal dust, the 23 claims are barred by Virginia law.”
“I thank Gov. Northam for signing this bill to give plaintiffs who develop diseases like cancer and Black Lung from a toxic substance or faulty product their fair day in court,” said Guzman, a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for lieutenant governor.
“Virginia is one of only five states that effectively exclude certain plaintiffs with latent injuries or diseases from ever getting relief from corporations that cause them great harm. This is a consumer- and workers’ rights piece of legislation that will allow justice to be done for everyday Virginians. Bill by bill, I will continue fighting to make Virginia a more just, fair, and people-powered state,” Guzman said.