Statute of Limitations
In almost all legal actions, there is a time limitation within which a case may be brought.
The clock starts ticking when the “cause of action” arises. If we were talking about injuries from a car crash, this would be a simple calculation: The cause of action would almost always be the date of accident.
However, when it comes to surgical procedures involving defective medical devices, it could be months or even years before adverse reactions surface or until the patient knows what’s causing them.
Boston product liability attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman can help those injured understand the timeline in which they are working. This is not always a simple determination, but it’s a very important one because in Massachusetts, persons filing a product liability lawsuit have three years from that cause of action to do so. If the statute of limitations has expired, there is no chance the claim will succeed.
In cases where people didn’t know or could not have reasonably known for some time that he or she was harmed by the actions of another, the discovery rule applies. In that scenario, the cause of action accrues when plaintiff discovers – or reasonably could have discovered – personal harm as a result of defendant’s conduct.
So for example, a patient may have undergone hip replacement surgery in 2015, but doesn’t realize there is a problem until 2018. Most likely in that case, the patient will still be able to lawfully file a claim.Discovering Hip and Knee Replacement Problems
Hip and knee replacements are becoming increasingly common. According to the non-profit consumer advocate group Consumers Union, there were more than 711,000 knee replacements in a single recent year, and more than 500,000 hip replacements.
But these devices have failed on a wide scale. From 2003 through 2013, there were 709 knee replacement implants and 578 hip replacement implants recalled. Many of those products were on the market for several years before the complaints started rolling in.
That tells us people didn’t know there was any sort of problem until well after the surgery was completed. Complications included things like:
- Infection due to loosening of attachment between the bone and device;
- Instability when artificial joint dislocates;
- Premature wear-and-tear;
- Toxic metal poisoning from metal-on-metal implants;
- Fractures near the artificial joint;
- Breakage of metal.
These are not problems people find out about overnight. It’s precisely for situations like this that the discovery rule exists.Massachusetts Law Statute of Limitations
Personal injury litigation in the Commonwealth is bound by Mass. Gen. Law ch. 260 § 2A. This statute grants only a three-year window in which plaintiffs can recovery for personal injuries, and specifies that the timeline commences only within three years next after the cause of action accrues.
Massachusetts is somewhat in the middle as far as personal injury timelines go. For example, many states require cases be brought within two years. A handful allow four or five years. In Maine and North Carolina, plaintiffs have six years to file. And in North Dakota, plaintiffs in product liability actions have a full 10 years from the date of initial purchase or within 11 years of the date of manufacture.
The earlier you can file a claim, the better for you and your attorney. Understand that waiting until the last minute could stretch the resources of your attorney and ultimately drive up your legal costs. It’s better to initiate a legal consultation at the first suspicion of a problem.The Discovery Rule
Massachusetts was one of the last states to adopt a discovery rule. A 1929 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Capucci v. Barone set the precedent for denying the discovery rule for decades, despite the fact most other states accepted it.
This didn’t change until 1980, with rulings in Teller v. Schepens and Franklin v. Albert. At that time, the Commonwealth joined the vast majority of American jurisdictions in adopting a discovery rule.
Calculating the exact amount of time a plaintiff has to file legal action can be complicated, and usually involves a number of different factors. Consulting with an experienced Massachusetts product liability lawyer can help determine your best court of action.