From the moment you sustain an injury or are harmed by a drug, corporation, or other entity, a clock starts ticking. Like a shot clock in a basketball game, this clock limits the amount of time you have to act on your injury before the law says you can no longer take action. This time period is called the statute of limitations, and it differs based on a number of factors.
The statute of limitations has become a bit of a point of contention in ongoing litigation over Risperdal; the anti-psychotic medication at the heart of thousands of lawsuits filed by men that allege that the drug caused them to develop breasts in a condition known as gynecomastia.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that if argued successfully, might alter the statute of limitations in two Risperdal cases and could alter the outcomes of thousands of other such cases as well.
The timeline in the case before the court is a complicated one. The two plaintiffs were prescribed Risperdal in 1997 and 1998. They then allegedly began developing breast tissue in 1998 and 2002, respectively. It wasn’t until they were watching TV and saw lawyer advertisements that discussed the link between Risperdal and gynecomastia that they learned of the possible feasibility of a lawsuit. Those advertisements were seen in 2013 and the plaintiffs brought suit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals; a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, in 2014.
In 2015, a trial court effectively killed their lawsuits based on the fact that the applicable statute of limitations had elapsed. In the court’s findings, the court indicated that the plaintiffs should have figured out that Risperdal had caused their condition by 2009. An appeal was made to the Superior Court and it agreed with the trial court, stating that “from 1998 and 2002 until 2013, when plaintiffs were notified of the commercial claiming a link between gynecomastia and Risperdal, they did nothing to uncover the cause of their unexplained breast growth and weight gain.” The Superior Court ruling went on to state that “[the plaintiffs’] breasts were clearly not temporary by 2006. Accordingly, by that date, ‘reasonable minds would not differ in finding that plaintiffs knew, or should have known, of their injuries and the cause of those injuries by this point.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, wants to hear more. And, as close to 7,000 Risperdal lawsuits sit in wait of a hearing of their own, parties on both sides would love to know what additional information the Court is looking for and what might be done with it.