This case illustrates how important it is to act quickly if you’re considering filing a lawsuit over Duragesic, or any defective drug. On June 21st of 2008, a federal court decided the case of Schmelzle v. Alza Corp. (Alza manufactures Duragesic (Fentanyl) patches.) Kelly Sue Schmelzle died on December 12th of 2003 after using a Duragesic patch. Her family waited until December 11th of 2006 to file the lawsuit – a day shy of three years.
Unfortunately, Kelly passed away in Wyoming, a state that has only a two-year statute of limitations. Because her family didn’t bring the lawsuit on or before December 12th of 2005, her family automatically loses. That means that Kelly’s family won’t have the chance to prove a defective Duragesic patch killed her. And it means that even if the patch was unquestionably defective, Alza won’t have to pay her family a dime. Not even her funeral expenses. Does this seem fair to you? Well, companies like Alza think it is. They spend millions of dollars every year lobbying for drastic changes to the legal system that make it harder for people like Kelly’s family to hold companies accountable for wrongdoing. You may have heard of these lobbying efforts: they’re often referred to as “tort reform.”
If Wyoming had a four-year (or even a three-year) statute of limitations, Kelly’s family might have had the chance to pursue some small measure of justice. Instead, her family will receive nothing. Perhaps you can find a moment to write your state legislators and tell them you think your state should have a four-year statute of limitations for wrongful death and other personal injury lawsuits.