Court rules to extend statute of limitations in case

Donald Martin, a worker at a paper plant, was killed by a machine while on the job. His widow, Nina Martin, attempted to sue the company that installed the machine, but that company no longer existed. Martin had difficulty determining which company was responsible for the installation company’s liability because of its complicated merger and acquisition history.

Because of that complicated history, Martin sued the incorrect company and did not realize who the responsible party was until after the statute of limitations expired. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on whether Martin met the requirements of the rule that allowed plaintiffs to add the correct defendant after the statute of limitations period expired, and whether her inability to identify the correct defendant was due to inexcusable neglect.

The Court found that it was not: the record did not show that the proper defendant’s identity was easily ascertainable by Martin during the limitations period. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals.