A Righted Wrong

On January 25, 2008, the Supreme Court of Alabama changed an unjust law which had been on the books for approximately twenty-nine years.  The Supreme Court of Alabama recently ruled in Cline v. Ashland, Inc. (Ala. 2007) that a person who is exposed to a toxic tort must file a lawsuit within two years from the date that person was last exposed to the toxic chemical.  However, if no injury was present within that period, that person’s claims were lost forever.  This rule was explained by the Court twenty-nine years ago in Garrett v. Raytheon Co., 368 So.2d 516 (Ala. 1979). 

For example, if John Smith worked at ABC Company with the chemical Benzine until February 1, 2000 and he was diagnosed with cancer as a result on February 2, 2002, his claim would be lost.  Most states have a different rule than this, and finally, Alabama saw how unjust this rule was.

Based upon Justice Harwood’s dissent in the Jack Cline case in 2007, the Supreme Court of Alabama decided that this injustice must be corrected.  Consequently, the rule was changed last week.  The rule now states that “a cause of action accrues only when there has occurred a manifest, present injury.” Cline, —So.2d at —- (Harwood, J., dissenting) (emphasis added).  Now, if the person is diagnosed with cancer as a result of working with a chemical ten years after leaving the company, that person will have two years to make a claim from the date of the diagnosis.  Most people would agree that such a rule is much more equitable than the previous rule.

If you would like to read the Griffin decision, you may visit our previous post on this blog.  This decision should be credited to the incredibly hard work of Greg Cade and Robert Palmer who fought this injustice with most giving them little chance of changing the Court’s decision.

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