Statute of Limitations for Defective Medicines

Sometimes after a person has taken certain medications, he or she discovers that this medicine has caused unanticipated medical issues. A person may be entitled to compensation for injuries caused by defective products. However, a person only has a limited amount of time in which to bring a lawsuit in order to recover.

Statute of Limitations

The time bar associated with making otherwise valid legal claims is called the statute of limitations. There are different statutes of limitations for different causes of action, including cases involving crimes, personal injury and debt. For product liability claims, most states have a two-year statute of limitations. However, some statutes only provide one year in which to file a claim. Others provide a statute of limitations up to ten years. If the case is based on medical malpractice and not on product liability, the statute of limitations may be different, longer or shorter, depending on the state law.

Effect of

Statute of Limitations

If the statute of limitations
expires, the defendant can raise the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense in order to get the case dismissed. This can occur even if the defendant would otherwise be liable for the damages that resulted. Only in rare circumstances can the statute of limitations be ignored, such as by the court deciding to do so or the defendant voluntarily waiving it.

When the Statute Begins

Different states begin the statute of limitations based on different time frames. For example, some states start the clock at the time of the purchase. Others start it on the date when the injury occurred or was discovered. The plaintiff should know the relevant statute of limitations and when the time began to tick on the claim.

Discovery of Injury

In some cases, an injury may not be discovered until months or years after the defective product was used. For example, pregnant mothers may not be aware of the traumatic effects of certain drugs until their toddler children are later diagnosed with learning disabilities. In cases in which the injury occurred, but it could not reasonably be discovered until a later point in time, the statute of limitations may begin when the injury was actually discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. In these situations, the hypothetical two-year statute of limitations would begin to run on the date that the person was diagnosed.

In terms of the statute of limitations beginning when the injured individual “should” have discovered the injury, the determination is usually based on when a reasonable person would have suspected the injury. If the individual had symptoms, the onset of the symptoms may trigger the statute of limitations.

In some situations, the manufacturer may notify patients that a product is defective in order to supply them with notice. The manufacturer may argue that the statute should commence when the plaintiff received such notice.

Statute of Repose

In some situations, the plaintiff may not be barred by the statute of limitations but may be barred by other time constrictions. For example, some states have laws called “statutes of repose” that prohibit bringing forth a lawsuit against a manufacturer of a defective product that was sold many years ago. For example, if a pregnant mother received certain medication during pregnancy and did not realize that her child had been adversely affected by it until the child was six and the applicable statute of limitations was five years from the discovery of the injury, the mother would have until the child was approximately 11 years old to bring forth a claim. However, if there was a statute of repose that prohibited an action for a defective product that had been sold more than ten years ago, the mother would be barred from making the claim.

Legal Assistance

Due to the complexities of issues involving statutes of limitations, it can be difficult to determine the applicable time limit by which a lawsuit must be filed. Individuals injured by defective medicine or defective products may wish to discuss the case with a lawyer who has experience in personal injury law and product liability cases in particular. A lawyer can review the circumstances to determine whether a claim is viable and whether any complications may arise.

Provided by

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

Find a Lawyer