NJ Supreme Court Ruling May Means Accutane Inflammatory Bowel Disease Lawsuits Not Held to Strict Two-Year Statute of Limitations
Tracy Ray | March 21st, 2012
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s February 27, 2012 ruling in Kamie Kendall’s Accutane inflammatory bowel disease case indicates there may be some leeway in the two-year statute of limitations for filing such lawsuits.
Doctors didn’t know of link between Accutane and IBD
Kendall’s lawsuit alleges that she began taking Accutane (isotretinoin) to treat her acne in 1997 when she was 12 years old. In 1999, she was diagnosed with Accutane ulcerative colitis. Neither she nor her physicians were aware that there was any connection between her condition and Accutane, so she took the anti-acne drug even after her diagnosis. According to the lawsuit, she was not aware of the link between Accutane and IBD until she saw a magazine advertisement about the risks of Accutane.
Kendall sued Pfizer in December of 2005. The drug company moved to dismiss the case, arguing that since it had added warnings to the Accutane label in August of 2003, the two-year statute of limitations ran out in August of 2005. The original court denied the motion to dismiss, saying that a reasonable person in Kendall’s situation would not have known of the link between the anti-acne medication and Accutane ulcerative colitis by December of 2003.
Jury awarded Kendall 0.5 million, but Pfizer appealed
Kendall’s case went to trial in 2008, and a jury awarded her 0.5 million. Pfizer appealed the decision, citing several issues, among them the statute of limitations argument. But on February 27, 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied that argument, upholding the original court’s contention that Kendall could not be expected to know about Accutane risks like Accutane inflammatory bowel disease, Accutane ulcerative colitis, or Accutane Crohns disease before December of 2003. The court did allow other issues that Pfizer appealed on, so the case will now be scheduled for a retrial.
Decision is good news for other Accutane plaintiffs
The court’s decision may mean that in Accutane cases, the standard two-year statute of limitations may have some flexibility as to when that two-year clock actually started ticking. This is good news for the thousands of other plaintiffs who have filed similar lawsuits, since many of these plaintiffs, like Kendall, began taking Accutane as young teenagers and didn’t discover Accutane’s risks until much later, especially since the diagnoses of these conditions may have occurred years after the patient first began taking the medication.
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