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April 2016


Missouri Court Applies Borrowing Statute to Bar Illinois Asbestos Claims


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Luke J. Mangan


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Aaron Chickos


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In Wolfe, et al. v. Armstrong Int'l, Inc., et al., Cause No. 1522-CC11026 (Div. No. 4), the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, 22nd Circuit, entered an April 11, 2016, Order dismissing certain defendants from an asbestos lawsuit on the basis that the claims made against those defendants were barred by the Illinois wrongful death statute of limitations (740 ILCS 180.2), notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiffs had purportedly brought the action in Missouri court under the Missouri wrongful death statute (§ 537.080 RSMo). See Memorandum Opinion and Order, entered April 11, 2016 (Bush, J.).

The plaintiffs' petition stated that the decedent had suffered his injury in Illinois, where he was a resident, and where all the plaintiffs reside.  The claim was brought in Missouri court under the Missouri wrongful death statute, which provides for a three-year statute of limitations.  Conversely, the Illinois wrongful death statute of limitations provides a two-year limit (which had expired in relation to the plaintiffs' claims).

Certain defendants then moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims on the basis that the claims were properly considered to be made under the Illinois wrongful death statute and that, pursuant to the Missouri borrowing statute, § 516.190 RSMo. (providing "Whenever a cause of action has been fully barred by the laws of the state, territory or country in which it originated, said bar shall be a complete defense [in Missouri courts]"), the two-year Illinois wrongful death statute applied to preclude the plaintiffs' claims.

In response, plaintiffs contended that § 516.300 RSMo. (providing "The provisions of sections 516.010 to 516.370 [including Section 516.190 RSMo., i.e., the borrowing statute] shall not extend to any action which is or shall be otherwise limited by statute; but such action shall be brought within the time limited by such statute") applied to prevent the application of the borrowing statute because Missouri's wrongful death statute contained a built-in, specific statute of limitations for wrongful death actions (similar to that of Illinois), and therefore the claim was "otherwise limited by statute" for purposes of Section 516.300 RSMo.   Accordingly, the plaintiffs asserted that Missouri's three-year wrongful death statute of limitations applied, not Illinois' two-year statute of limitations.

Following the analysis in Thompson v. Crawford, 833 S.W.2d 868 (Mo. Banc. 1992), the Circuit Court ruled that notwithstanding the plaintiffs' assertion to the contrary, the plaintiffs' claim was properly brought pursuant to the Illinois wrongful death statute and that the two-year Illinois statute of limitations barred the plaintiffs' claim. See Order, at pp. 4-5. 

The Court explained that where a wrongful death statute contains a built-in statute of limitations, like that of the Illinois wrongful death statute, the Court conducts a traditional conflicts of laws analysis under the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws (1971). Id. at 4.  Here, under that analysis, the Illinois wrongful death statute, including its built-in statute of limitations, applied to bar the plaintiffs' claim. Id. at 5.

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