A wrongful death lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb is set to go forward as planned, personal injury attorneys in New Jersey report. U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Arpert ruled late last month that the New Jersey statute of limitations did not supersede the federal law, which does not apply limitations on wrongful death lawsuits. The victims and their families have been filing lawsuits against the company for the last several years, and consolidated several pending suits into a mass-action lawsuit for personal injury claims of wrongful death, poisoning, and other chemical-related injuries and conditions.
The master complaint lawsuit, Harris v. Bristol-Myers Squibb, alleges that the plaintiffs, who have lived or worked near a 100-acre Bristol-Myers plant in New Brunswick, were seriously injured or killed as a result of coming into contact with dangerous chemicals and pollutants that the facility had exposed to the air since it began operating in 1905. At least 24 of the compiled cases indicate wrongful death and survivorship claims, and in others, plaintiffs claim that the exposure to arsenic, mercury, vinyl chloride, and asbestos in their air and water has left them suffering. Claims have varying medical complaints from cancers, and skin conditions to other respiratory and nervous system diseases. Another set of suits has been filed by parties who have not yet fallen ill, but need medical monitoring.
Bristol-Myers and their attorneys moved to dismiss the lawsuit, because the claims extend outside of New Jersey’s two-year statute of limitations. But in Arpert’s ruling, he cited the state’s Wrongful Death Act, and said that claims of that nature are not time-barred or held to the statute of limitations. Arpert stated that the discovery rule is applicable in these lawsuits, overturning U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson’s prior ruling in February 2013.
New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act allows persons who had been financially dependent on the deceased, or a surviving spouse or parent, to bring legal action against the person or entity who is responsible for the victim’s death. This action can be taken regardless of the date of discovery. The state discovery rule allows plaintiffs to toll the two year-statute of limitations for certain lawsuits, including claims of wrongful death.
The personal injury lawyers in New Jersey who represented the plaintiffs argued that the statute of limitations is skewed in this case already, due to claims that Bristol-Myers fraudulently concealed information about the toxic contamination in the area. This changed the time-line in the course of events, and the wrongful death lawsuits were filed more than two years after the dates of death. An Atlantic County Superior Court Judge originally threw out more than 100 claims for this reason, but the plaintiffs argued that they had no way of knowing the date of contamination.
At New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our personal injury attorneys represent anyone who has suffered injury or illness as a result of another person’s negligence. They also work with survivors who have lost loved ones and family members, bringing wrongful death claims in their loved ones’ memory.