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Harig v. Johns-Manville Products Corp.

Maryland Court of Appeals
394 A.2d 299 (1978)


Facts

Frances Harig (plaintiff) worked as a secretary for Reid-Hayden, Inc. from 1940-1955. Reid-Hayden bought, made, sold, and installed asbestos products. In the course of her secretarial duties, Harig was brought into contact with files containing asbestos dust, and warehouse areas where employees worked with asbestos products. Johns-Manville Products Corp. (Johns-Manville) (defendant) provided Reid-Hayden with asbestos-containing products. In 1975, Harig contracted cancer. Harig sued Johns-Manville for negligence, breach of warranty, and strict product liability. Under § 5-101 of Maryland’s Courts Article, the statute of limitations for a civil action is three years from the date the action accrues. Johns-Manville raised the defense that it was protected by the statute of limitations for civil actions. It argued that the three-year statute of limitations on Harig’s claims began to run when she was last exposed to asbestos products, or in 1955. Harig argued that her product-liability claims should instead be subject to the “discovery rule.” Under the discovery rule, a cause of action does not begin to accrue until a plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered her injury. The trial court certified two questions to the supreme court: (1) at what time does a plaintiff’s cause of action for negligence accrue for causing a latent disease? and (2) at what time does a plaintiff’s cause of action for strict liability accrue for causing a latent disease? The supreme court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Murphy, C.J.)

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