Can I Still File a Lawsuit If My IVC Filter Problems Didn't Show Up Right Away?

How the lawsuit-filing deadline set by the statute of limitations might apply to your IVC filter lawsuit.

If you've received a surgically implanted "inferior vena cava" (IVC) filter, and the device has failed in some way, resulting in a specific health problem that requires treatment or a health risk that needs to be alleviated, it's important to understand that there are deadlines for filing an IVC filter lawsuit. But what if you didn't notice any problems until well after the filter was implanted, or even after the device began failing? How do these lawsuit-filing deadlines work, especially when serious complications from a defective IVC filter might take months or even years to develop?

Lawsuit Deadlines and the Statute of Limitations

In every state, laws called "statutes of limitations" set a strictly-enforced limit on how much time can pass before you must get a civil lawsuit filed in court. Different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases, but the impact of failing to comply with the rule is the same: miss the deadline and you’ve lost your right to sue and get compensation for your losses ("damages" in legalese). While these deadlines are firm, every state has carved out exceptions that can effectively extend them (more on these later).

What Statute of Limitations Applies to an IVC Filter Lawsuit?

The specific statute of limitations that will apply to your IVC filter case hinges on the facts of your situation, who you plan to sue, and sometimes even on the kind of legal argument you (and your attorney) plan to make.

Is your case based on a problem or defect inherent in the filter itself? If so, your lawsuit will likely be based on "product liability," a theory that can be used to hold manufacturers and others legally responsible for injuries caused by defective products.

In the majority of states, the statute of limitations deadline that will apply to this kind of IVC filter lawsuit is the same as the one that applies to most personal injury lawsuits. But some states have a dedicated statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits. (Get 50-state details on different civil statutes of limitations from Nolo.com.)

In Minnesota, for example, the time limit that applies to a product liability lawsuit depends on the kind of legal argument you're making against the manufacturer. A lawsuit based on "strict product liability" (a legal theory that requires no proof of fault) is subject to a four-year filing deadline in Minnesota. But if you're alleging that your injuries were the result of some level of carelessness (negligence) on the part of the filter manufacturer, you'll have six years to file your lawsuit. Those deadlines are both set by Minnesota Statutes section 541.05.

Are you claiming that a surgeon (or some other health care provider) made a mistake when implanting the filter, or while performing some other procedure associated with the device? If so, you'll likely be filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, alleging that the health professional's provision of sub-standard care caused your injuries. Most states have passed a specific statute of limitations that applies to these kinds of cases. (Learn more about the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits.)

For example, California's statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits (California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5) says this kind of case must be brought "within one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury." So, the date on which the California medical malpractice statute of limitations "clock" starts running depends on when the injury or other harm was (or should have been) realized by the patient, which brings us to our next point of discussion.

The "Discovery Rule" and IVC Filter Lawsuits

In many kinds of injury cases, including those stemming from complications from a surgically implanted IVC filter, the statute of limitations "clock" might not start running on the date of the implant procedure, or even on the date on which the device starts failing. Instead, under the "discovery rule," the clock might start only when the patient discovers (or should reasonably have discovered) that something has gone wrong with the IVC filter. Or the relevant discovery rule could simply provide that the clock starts on the date the person was diagnosed with or started experiencing symptoms of a health problem caused by a defective or improperly implanted filter. (Learn more about medical diagnosis in an IVC filter lawsuit.)

For example, let's say your IVC filter was implanted on September 1, 2019, but you didn’t begin experiencing health problems until February 10, 2020. Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations "clock" might not start until February 10, 2020.

Sorting out Filing Deadlines Is Your Attorney’s Job

If you’re confused about which statute of limitations applies to your IVC filter case, and whether you might be entitled to an extension of any filing deadline that’s looming (or has already passed), don’t worry. It’s not your job to understand complex rules like these, let alone figure out how they might affect your case. An attorney will be familiar with the statute of limitations deadline in your state, and can craft a strategy for protecting your rights.

Learn more about finding the right lawyer for you and your IVC filter case and how an IVC filter lawyer gets paid.

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