Split state Supreme Court bars wrongful death lawsuit

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A split Washington Supreme Court has barred a woman from bringing a lawsuit following the asbestos-related death of her father, a longtime worker at a pulp and paper mill in Longview.

The 5-4 majority said Judy Deggs could not bring her wrongful death claim because at the time he died, in 2010 at age 84, her father had known for more than three years that he had asbestos. Because the statute of limitations would have already run on bringing personal injury claims, Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote, the daughter could not bring a wrongful death claim.

In her dissent, Justice Debra Stevens called that “topsy-turvy illogic.” She said wrongful death claims are separate from personal injury claims, and obviously can’t be brought before someone dies. Since Deggs brought her claim within three years of her father’s death, the minority said it should be allowed to go forward.

During his life, Deggs’ father, Ray Sundberg, did recover more than $1.5 million from some of the same defendants his daughter later sued.