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Statute of Limitations


One of the questions I am asked most often as a product liability lawyer is “how is it possible to sue drug makers years and years after you’ve taken the drug and been hurt.”  Alright, I’ll admit the question usually isn’t that succinct, but you get the point.  Many people are confused about the statute of limitations and how it applies to drug cases.

Statutes of Limitations – Product Liability Cases

Cases involving Zantac and Singulair are “product liability” cases.  Every state has its own statute of limitations for product liability cases.  Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee have the shortest – one year.  Twenty-six states have a two-year statute of limitations.  Two states have a six-year statute, which is the longest.  Generally, the statute of limitations starts to run when the injury occurs.   Then, how is it possible to sue for Zantac or Singulair injuries if you were diagnosed with your injury many years ago?

The Discovery Rule

Most states recognize what is called a “discovery rule.”  So, the clock on the statute of limitations is tolled – meaning the clock isn’t running – until the plaintiff knew or should have known that the injuries were caused by the fault of another.  In other words, the statute of limitations really doesn’t start to run on your case until you “knew or should have known” that your cancer was caused by Zantac or your neuropsychiatric injuries were caused by Singulair.

Keep in mind there are all kinds of limitations to the discovery rule.  Every state and everyone’s case is different.  So, no one should assume they have “plenty of time” to sue.  If you are not sure, call a product liability lawyer.

When You “Should Have Known” Zantac Caused Your Cancer

Let’s look at an example.  Let’s say your doctor diagnosed your cancer in 2010.  According to some judges, you “should have known” that you might have a case against the makers of Zantac in September 2019.  That’s because the FDA issued a press release about the possible connection between Zantac and cancer. And so, even if your doctor diagnosed you with cancer in 2010, the clock on your statute of limitations started ticking in September 2019.

When You “Should Have Known” Singulair Caused Your Depression

Let’s say you were diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric injury, like depression, in 2015.  You had no reason to think that Singulair caused your depression when you were diagnosed.  However, some courts may say that you had reason to wonder if your depression was caused by Singulair in March 2020.  Again, the FDA issued a press release.  And, FDA required Merck to include a black box warning on the Singulair label. 

Am I Supposed to Watch FDA Press Releases Every Day?

Apparently, yes, you are, according to some judges.  Okay, stop laughing and keep reading.    Most judges realize that very, very few people read the many FDA press releases published every day.  (Yes, I am one of few people).  However, some judges out there still say that the statute of limitations starts to run on the day of a certain FDA press release.

What Am I Supposed to Do?

If you are thinking about calling a product liability lawyer to ask if you have a case, don’t delay. Do it even if you think your case is too old. Do it if you are not sure whether you want to sue. Just call and get the ball rolling. You don’t want to find out that you waited too long because of something you knew nothing about (like an FDA press release) started the clock ticking on your case.

Kim Beck

Attorney Kimberly Beck

Cincinnati, Ohio

Attorney Kim Beck is the managing member of Beck Law Center, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She has 15 years of experience as an attorney, mostly on the defense.  She now represents plaintiffs in personal injury cases involving a variety of injuries caused by defecting drugs/ pharmaceuticals, medical malpractice, and other series accidents.  If you would like more information about her background and experience, please review her profile page.

Attorney Advertisement.  Beck Law Center provided this post as general information and should not be construed as creating an attorney/client relationship.  It may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction.  It is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.  Further, this correspondence is not protected by privilege.  No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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