DISCOVERY RULE Is APPLIED To WRONGFUL DEATH AND SURVIVAL CAUSES OF ACTION. White v. Johns-Manville Corp., 103 Wn. 2d 344, 693 P.2d 687 (1985).
In White v. Johns-Manville Corp.,’ on certification from the United State District Court for the Western District of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously held the discovery rule applies to both wrongful death and survival causes of action. In accordance with Washington’s discovery rule, wrongful death and survival actions do not accrue, for the purpose of tolling the statute of limitations, until the statutory beneficiary’ or personal representatives discovers or reasonably should have discovered the essential elements of the cause of action.
The decedent in this wrongful death and survival action, August Zenzen, was exposed to asbestos in the work place during 1942 and 1943. Mr. Zenzen died on March 8, 1974 due to congestion in the lungs.9 Mrs. Jeanne Zenzen White, the decedent’s surviving spouse and personal representative, commenced this lawsuit against Johns-Manville Corp. on October 3, 1980, more than six years after Mr. Zenzen’s death.’0 She alleged that the Johns-Manville Corp. manufactured and/or distributed the asbestos-containing products her husband was exposed to in 1942 and 1943 and that the exposure caused his death. She based her claim on information she obtained in late 1978 which showed that the pulmonary congestion that caused her husband’s death was due to mesothelioma of the right pleura.’” Mesothelioma is a form of cancer, affecting the lungs, and medical evidence strongly links its cause to asbestos exposure.
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