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In a Products Liability Case, Does the Statute of Limitations Run at the First Sign of Harm?

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In Adams v. American Medical System, No. 14-4057 (D. Utah, 2017), the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit determines the timetable for the statute of limitations.

Gerry Adams (“Adams”) alleged that a mesh sling that she had surgically implanted to treat stress urinary incontinence was defective. The question is whether her product liability claims are barred by the statute of limitations. That statute required Adams to bring her claims within two years after she discovered, or in the exercise of due diligence should have discovered, her harm and its cause.

In July of 2007, Adams had a sling implanted to alleviate her stress incontinence. (The sling was manufactured by Caldera Medical. Caldera was also originally named in this lawsuit. Adams and Caldera have since settled, and Caldera has been removed as a defendant.) In November of 2007, Adams had her first surgery to fix problems with the mesh sling. In December of 2007 she had a second surgery, and in February of 2013, a third surgery to remove the sling entirely.

Governing Utah law states that a civil action under Utah’s Product Liability Act shall be brought within two years from the time the individual in the action discovered, or should have discovered, the harm and its cause. The Court agreed with the lower court that Adams should have known the harm and its cause as early as November of 2007, when she had her first surgery to fix the harm the sling was causing. Adams contended she could not know that her injuries might be caused by a defect in the mesh sling until her doctor told her, in 2013, that the entire sling had to be removed. The Court stated that under Utah law, the knowledge required is inquiry notice. The Court said a plaintiff did not need to have a confirmed diagnosis about the causal relation to trigger the running of the statute of limitations.

This Court therefore, affirms the district court’s dismissal of Adams’ claim as time barred.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.