Accutane Ruling Could Open Product Liability Limitations Door in New Jersey

A new ruling on a products liability case could have big implications for future product liability lawsuits regarding New Jersey’s statute of limitations. The New Jersey Supreme Court has reinstated a $25 million jury award in favor of an Alabama man against Accutane, a prescription medication for acne.

Accutane

Wallace Law - Accutane Pills

The plaintiff was prescribed the drug back in June 1995 by his dermatologist when he began taking the medication daily for four months. In November 1996, the plaintiff was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease in his home state of Alabama and received treatment locally. The plaintiff had to have his colon removed among other complications, in which he still suffers residual pain and other symptoms.

In both New Jersey and Alabama, there is a two-year limit on product liability cases. Alabama is much stricter when it comes to the regulations. In the state, the time had already elapsed before the plaintiff was able to take legal action. In New Jersey, a plaintiff has two years after the condition has been discovered. This is referred to as the “discovery rule” and aims to give protection to consumers.

Wallace Law - AccutaneThe trial court decided the discovery rule applied to the case, as the plaintiff could not have known Accutane was the culprit for his condition until June 2003. The plaintiff claimed he would not have taken the acne medication had Accutane properly labeled their product with adequate information of the risks, which he much later found to be the cause of his debilitating disease.

The Appellate Division reversed and dismissed the finding of the trial court, finding Alabama’s statute of limitations governed over the case, favoring the law of the state where the injury occurred. This past January, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court reinstated the plaintiff’s verdict and damages award, finding New Jersey’s statute of limitations applied.

Product Liability Limitations

The Court used section 142 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts Law, making it the operative choice-of-law rule for these types of conflicts. Using this standard, a state that has substantial interest in the claim can rule. New Jersey has a vested interest in deterring manufacturers from putting dangerous products on the market, making it appropriate to govern under New Jersey statute of limitations law.

If you have a products liability case that may need revisiting or are putting together your case for the first time, contact the South Jersey products liability lawyers at Wallace Law today to find out how we can help.