There’s trouble brewing in the North Star State.
We joked last spring that you’d soon see an article titled, “Minnesota, Heal Thyself!” And we posted this summer about Minnesota seemingly being on the road to recovery.
Here’s an update: Minnesota is not yet recovered, and our concern has now hit the legal mainstream.
The ABA Journal has just run an article about why Minnesota has become the dumping ground for time-barred product liability claims.
Point of Law, linking to the ABA piece, notes the nasty combination of (1) Minnesota’s six-year statute of limitations for product liability claims, plus (2) generous choice of law provisions, which arguably permit out-of state plaintiffs to file in Minnesota lawsuits that would be time-barred in the plaintiffs’ home states.
Looking for the practical side of this?
Merck waited three years before settling its Vioxx cases, presumably in part because, after three years, the statutes of limitations had run in 42 states. If the law worked correctly, Merck could assume that it was protected from future lawsuits brought by residents of those 42 states.
Not so, if the plaintiffs can resurrect their time-barred claims by filing in a different state that would apply a different statute of limitations. If all of the plaintiffs who are time-barred in their 42 home states are allowed to bring Vioxx suits that will not be time-barred in Minnesota, what then?
If this country wants mass torts to settle, it must have laws governing statutes of limitations that are sensible and predictable. Just one outlier — such as Minnesota — can upset the whole apple cart.