If you have a history of using Zantac or another ranitidine medication, you may have heard that these products could contain unsafe levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a known carcinogen. When you're experiencing health problems that could be caused by Zantac, it's important to understand that there are deadlines for filing an injury-related civil lawsuit in court. What if you noticed possibly related symptoms a long time after using a ranitidine medication? How do these lawsuit-filing deadlines work, especially when serious health problems—including different forms of cancer—might not always arise until months (possibly even years) after use of these drugs? (Get the basics on Zantac (ranitidine) and the law.)
In every state, laws called "statutes of limitations" set a limit on how much time can pass before you must get a lawsuit filed in court. Different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases, but the impact of failing to comply with the time limit is the same: miss the deadline and you've lost your right to sue and get compensation for your losses (known as "damages"). But while these deadlines are strictly-enforced, every state has carved out exceptions that can extend the filing deadline. (More on these exceptions later).
A lawsuit seeking compensation for health problems caused by use of a ranitidine product like Zantac will likely be based on the concept of "product liability." This is a fault theory that can be used to hold manufacturers and others (including distributors, retailers, and even pharmacies in some cases) responsible for injuries caused by dangerous or defective products.
In most states, the statute-of-limitations deadline that will apply to a ranitidine product liability lawsuit is the same as the one that applies to most personal injury lawsuits. But some states have a separate statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits.
Also, the time limit that applies to a product liability lawsuit can depend on the kind of legal argument you're making against the manufacturer, distributor, retailer, or pharmacy. For example, a state's rules could make lawsuits based on "strict liability"—a legal theory that requires no proof of fault—subject to a four-year filing deadline. That same state might have a separate deadline of six years for product liability cases alleging negligence.
Most Zantac lawsuits will argue a strict liability theory of fault, meaning that they would be subject to the four-year period in our hypothetical state. But some people might base their suits on allegations that their ranitidine-related health problems were the result of some level of carelessness on the part of the medication's manufacturer, or the wrongful action (or inaction) of a different entity. Plaintiffs relying on this latter argument would have six years to file their lawsuit in our hypothetical state. (Of course, the law in your state could set a much shorter period than four or six years, which is a reason why consulting a lawyer is so important.)
Learn more about how a manufacturer's "failure to warn" can lead to liability, which is the legal argument that has been made in many Zantac lawsuits.
In many kinds of injury cases, including those stemming from health risks linked to Zantac, the statute of limitations "clock" might not start running on the date of the consumer's last use of the medication. Instead, under the "discovery rule," the clock might start only when the consumer discovers (or should reasonably have discovered) having been harmed by the medication, or on the date of diagnosis of a health problem caused by the medication. 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 the medication. (Learn more about the importance of medical diagnosis.)
For example, let's say you last used Zantac on March 1, 2017, but you didn't begin experiencing health problems (symptoms of a form of cancer, for example) until September 19, 2018. Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations "clock" might not start until September 19, 2018.
If you're confused about which statute of limitations applies to your Zantac 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.
For more information, read about finding the right lawyer for you and your Zantac case.