Radiation Injuries: Statute of Limitations Inadequacies in Tort Cases

Some injuries from overexposure to radiation may manifest themselves within existing statutory limitations periods, at least under some liberal ( or loose) judicial interpretations. Many injurious manifestations, however, will not arise for a great many years after exposure; it is the thesis of this article that some new legislative solutions must be adopted. Limiting the right to sue to the existing time periods as construed by many courts will be manifestly unfair to plaintiffs. A blanket, unconditional extension of the time period to as much as thirty years for all cases regardless of the local rule as to when the cause of action accrues, however, will place unrealistic burdens on defendants. This article, after first analyzing in detail the impact and inadequacies of existing statutory time limitations for radiation cases, will outline some more realistic provisions which legislatures should enact. The analysis here will be limited to general tort liability cases, workmen’s compensation problems already having been considered in a companion article.