Article published February 5, 2002|
limit or fairness?
The Ohio Supreme Court, as it
considers the timeliness of a beryllium-disease lawsuit filed
against Brush Wellman, should ponder simple fairness, not just
statutes of limitations.
To do so would not necessarily set a
precedent for all beryllium cases nor for all workplace injury
cases, as spokesmen for Brush would like the justices to believe.
Rather it would take away the advantage of employers who withhold
data detrimental to themselves until it is too late for employees to
use it against them.
The President has called on American
business and corporations to be honest and fair-dealing, and
American courts should expect no less of them.
instance, employee David Norgard, 46, diagnosed in 1992 with chronic
beryllium disease, didnít find out until 1995 that Brush Wellman
hadnít told him and other workers all it could have about the causes
of beryllium disease and the levels of exposure to it that were
He filed his lawsuit within two years of finding out,
but a trial court and a court of appeals panel ruled that, as Brush
Wellman had argued, he should have filed his suit in 1994, two years
after he was diagnosed but well before he knew the extent of the
The state Supreme Court has allowed some
leeway before as to when the statute of limitations clock begins to
tick. Usually it is when a work-related disease or injury has been
discovered. But in Mr. Norgardís case, the kind of information
needed to sue or to decide whether there were grounds to sue wasnít
readily available at the time of his diagnosis. Some of it was
In addition, other people stricken
with beryllium disease who filed within the first two years of
diagnosis often had their cases dismissed for lack of evidence, Mr.
Norgard says, and he wonders if it was because it was hidden. The
Norgards took time to investigate and get the facts. There is no
justice if their thoroughness is held against them.
statutes setting limitations within which lawsuits may be filed were
never meant to permit or promote corporate skulduggery. The Ohio
Supreme Courtís interpretation of the law should consider the equity
of the situation as well as the arguments of both