High Court Refuses To Address If Zometa Class Action Tolled Statute of Limitations

High Court Refuses To Address If Zometa Class Action Tolled Statute of Limitations

WASHINGTON ,D.C. - (Mealey's) On May 31, the U.S. Supreme Court declined Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.'s request to decide if a pending Zometa federal court class action tolls the statute of limitations on an individual state court action that was tried to a $3.2 million verdict (Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation v. Peggy L. Stevens, No. 10-1196, U.S. Sup.; See 1/16/11, Page 8).

In 2000, Peggy Stevens was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and was prescribed Zometa to combat bone loss.  In 2004, she had a tooth extracted and subsequently experienced pain.  In 2005, she was diagnosed with osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).

In 2007, Stevens filed a medical malpractice claim with the Montana Medical Legal Panel against two doctors.  When that proceeding concluded in 2008, Stevens sued a doctor, a medical practice and several fictitious defendants in the Missoula County District Court.  In 2009, Zometa manufacturer Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. was named as a defendant.

Stevens settled with the doctor and medical practice, and her claim against Novartis went to trial in 2009 in the Missoula County District Court.  A jury found Novartis negligent for failing to warn Stevens' doctor about the risk of ONJ and awarded her $3.2 million in compensatory damages.

On Dec. 30, 2010, the Montana Supreme Court rejected Novartis' argument that Stevens' claim was barred by Montana's three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions.  In an issue of first impression, the high court agreed with Stevens that her statute of limitations was tolled by a Zometa class action pending in the Aredia/Zometa federal multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

The state high court said that Novartis was effectively put on notice of Stevens' claim by the class action and that the company was not unfairly prejudiced.  The court said its allowance of cross-jurisdictional tolling does not expand access to Montana courts by out-of-state plaintiffs, noting that the Montana Constitution opens the state's courts to every person, unrestricted by citizenship.

Novartis filed a petition for certiorari to review the Montana Supreme Court's ruling on March 30.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the June 2 issue.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

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