Articles Tagged with statute of limitations

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If you have read any newspaper in the last year, you know that prescription opioids have caused massive suffering in this country. Addiction has skyrocketed. Sadly, deaths from overdoses and even opioid-related suicides have dramatically increased as well. In 2016 alone over 14,000 overdose deaths were reported from natural and semi-synthetic opioids, and over 20,000 people died of overdose from synthetic opioids (mostly fentanyl). Centers for Disease Control. Opioids have become a huge public health problem and a national tragedy. Inevitably, litigation has followed the suffering, and more lawsuits are being filed each week.

Despite the addictions, injuries, and deaths, and despite reports of awful business practices by the makers of these prescription painkillers, defense lawyers have developed certain legal defenses to help these drug companies avoid liability. Let’s look at a few:

The FDA Approved the Drug, So It’s the Government’s Fault

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Delaying Surgery Can Cost Money in Product Liability Case
In litigation, there are several harsh and punishing deadlines. The worst one is the statute of limitations (“SOL”).  The SOL is a statute in state or federal law that limits the time you are allowed to file a lawsuit. In North Carolina, for example, the SOL for bringing a personal injury claim against a person or company for negligence is three years. This means if a guy runs a red light and “T-bones” your car, causing you to break your leg, you have three years from the date of the car crash to file a lawsuit. This may seem like a reasonable amount of time; as the injured person you certainly have an obligation to pursue valid claims in a timely manner, but it can also lead to unintended and unfair results.

The SOL is just one unforgiving deadline that a person faces in the bumpy wagon ride of civil litigation. There are also discovery deadlines, deadlines to respond to motions, scheduling order deadlines, and others. One deadline may involve a settlement deadline. A settlement deadline is a date negotiated by both sides in a large-scale litigation requiring plaintiffs to take certain actions by a specific date or lose the right to participate in the settlement. In “mass tort” product liability cases, courts want to resolve hundreds or even thousands of cases as efficiently as possible. And settlement deadlines are a valuable tool in getting large numbers of plaintiffs to take quick action. Let’s look at one example:

The DePuy ASR Hip Settlement Deadlines

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Transvaginal Mesh MDLLet me get right to it: Judge Clay Land has a point. On September 7, 2016, Judge Land issued a blistering Order in the Mentor Corporation ObTape Transobturator Sling Mesh multi-district litigation. In a nutshell, he wrote that he was fed up with frivolous claims. Judge Land stated that he will consider money sanctions against plaintiffs’ lawyers who file and pursue lawsuits in the MDL that they know have no merit or which suffer from some fatal flaw. A fatal flaw could be the passing of the statute of limitations, or the failure to find an expert who can testify that the transvaginal mesh product caused the specific injuries to the plaintiff. In those cases, Judge Land writes, the plaintiffs’ lawyers ought to know better, and should not bring the claim in the first place, or should at the very least dismiss the action when the lawyer discovers a flaw in the case which is fatal to gaining a recovery.

The worst transgression identified by Judge Land is when the product manufacturer seeks “summary judgment” in a particular case and the plaintiff’s attorney simply throws in the towel on the case and does not even bother to show up for the court hearing. In those cases, even though the plaintiff is inevitably going to lose the case, the judge and the law clerks and court personnel and defense attorneys still have to show up and do the work of handling and deciding the motion.

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Statutes of Limitations in Product Liability Cases

The statute of limitations can be the strongest defense a product manufacturer will bring to defend itself and avoid paying money in a product liability lawsuit. It can be deadly to your medical device or drug case. The problem is, determining the proper deadline to bring your lawsuit is rarely simple. It is critical that you find someone who can figure out when the clock started ticking on your product liability case.

Definition

Let’s start with a simple definition: a statute of limitations is a state law which limits the time period when you may bring a lawsuit for money damages for a personal injury. In each state you have a certain number of years from the injury, or the date of discovery of the injury, to file a lawsuit and recover money for your injuries.

If you miss this deadline, you lose your right to bring the lawsuit, forever. These statutes must be taken very seriously.

Rationale

The rationale makes sense: citizens and companies do not need to be vulnerable to being sued indefinitely for an act of negligence. If you were in my grocery store twelve years ago, slipped on a banana peel, broke your arm, got medical treatment, recovered, then waited over a decade and finally sued me and my grocery store for negligence, it could be a serious hardship on me and deeply unfair. I need reasonable assurance that I won’t be exposed to lawsuits forever. So states across the country have written statutes that limit the amount of time an injured person can bring a lawsuit. Essentially, state legislatures are telling injured persons: we respect your right to sue for money damages when you are the victim of some kind of negligence, but don’t sleep on your rights. If you are hurt because of someone else, get on with it and file a lawsuit. And if you wait too long, you lose your right to recover damages.

(I don’t really own a grocery store.)

Determining When Your “Lawsuit Clock” Starts Ticking

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