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A plaintiff who only learned from a television commercial several years after her diagnosis that the medication she took could have caused her kidney disease is entitled to an extension of the statute of limitation in filing her lawsuit, says a federal appeals court in overturning a lower court decision.
Cindi Bekins was prescribed a succession of proton pump inhibitor medications, which are used to treat heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease, from 2000 to 2017, according to Friday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Cindi Bekins v. AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals L.P. and AstraZeneca L.P.
Three of the medications she took — AcipHex, Nexium and Nexium 24 HR — were manufactured by Cambridge, England-based AstraZeneca, said the ruling. In 2011, after taking the drugs for several years, Ms. Bekins was diagnosed with acute kidney failure.
She filed suit against the company in 2016, alleging her kidney failure was caused by her use of the drugs. AstraZeneca moved to dismiss the case, arguing that California’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions barred her claims.
Ms. Bekins responded by submitting a proposed amended complaint alleging she did not learn of the connection between the medications and her kidney disease until she saw a TV commercial in 2016 that made her aware of it for the first time.
The District Court in San Diego granted AstraZeneca’s motion to dismiss the case, ruling Ms. Bekins’ allegations did not entitle her to extend the statute of limitations.
A three-judge appeals court panel disagreed.
“Bekins neither knew nor had any reason to suspect that her condition was attributable to her ingestion” of the medications until 2016, said the ruling. “Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitation begins to run when the plaintiff suspects or should suspect that her injury was caused by wrongdoing, that someone had done something wrong to her,” said the decision, quoting an earlier case.
“The proposed amended complaint sufficiently alleges that in 2011,” when she was diagnosed with kidney disease, “Bekins had no reason to believe” the AstraZeneca medications caused her kidney failure. “Therefore, her duty to investigate was triggered by her viewing of the TV commercial in 2016, not by her initial diagnosis,” said the ruling, in reversing the lower court’s ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings.
A case now before the U.S. Supreme Court will determine how long companies will have to worry about the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission coming after them to recover funds that were deemed illegally obtained.