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Products Liability Case in Which New Jersey Statute of Limitations Applies Where There is a Conflict of Law

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In New Jersey, the rules concerning statute of limitations and choice of law for tort actions have changed once again. The court recently ruled that §142 of the Second Restatement of Conflicts of law controlled disagreements regarding statute of limitations and choice of law. Historically, in New Jersey, the statute of limitations was thought to be a subject of procedural law, and the forum state implemented its own statute of limitations.

Then, more than 10 years later, the court used a new test, in which choice of law for statute of limitations was decided by assessing the contacts of each state. In 1996, the court applied the government-interest test, which said that the applicable rule was the law of the state with the most significant interest in deciding the issue that is presented in the case.

However, in 2008, the court held that the substantive law of the state where the injury occurred is the applicable law unless another state has a more substantial relationship with the parties and the incident. In McCarrell v. Hoffman-LaRoche, 2017 N.J. LEXIS 19 at #12 (Jan. 24, 2017), plaintiff, Andrew McCarrell, who lived in Alabama, filed a failure-to-warn products liability lawsuit against New Jersey corporations Hoffman La Roche and Roche Laboratories (collectively “Roche”), resulting from his use of the drug Accutane. Mr. McCarrell bought and consumed Accutane, which caused him to suffer injuries, for which he subsequently received medical treatment. Although he started to suffer injuries in 1996, he said that he only discovered that Accutane was a potential cause of his injuries in 2003.

Roche made a motion for summary judgment, contending that Alabama’s statute of limitations prevented plaintiff from filing the claim. However, the court applied the government-interest test and issued a denial of the motion. The court held that New Jersey’s statute of limitations was applicable.

Although New Jersey and Alabama both have a two-year statute of limitations, the statute of limitations in New Jersey is tolled until the plaintiff learns that he could have a valid claim. However, in Alabama, there is no such discovery rule. In 2007, the jury ruled in favor of Mr. McCarrell. The Appellate Division issued a reversal, and the case was tried again in 2010. The jury sided with Mr. McCarrell and rendered an award in excess of $25 million.

If you were injured by a defective product, call the product liability attorneys at Rudnick, Addonizo, Pappa & Casazza.

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