Photo of Bexis

Fleeger v. Wyeth is a big case. It will address whether plaintiffs can evade their local statutes of limitations on personal injury claims simply by filing their complaints in Minnesota and thus taking advantage of Minnesota’s long (six year) statute of limitations. (We’ve discussed that issue in the past, including in Sean Costello’s guest post from June 2007 here.)

Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court announced that it will hand down its decision in Fleeger on Thursday morning. The Court’s order said: A decision in Fleeger “will be filed by the Minnesota Supreme Court on September 3, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. The opinion may be downloaded from the Court’s website at any time after 10:00 a.m. on that date.”

For those interested in more detail, the Minnesota Supreme Court describes the issue presented in Fleeger this way:

“Plaintiff Rachel Fleeger contends that hormone replacements prescribed for her beginning in 1995 caused her to develop breast cancer, which was diagnosed in 2001. Fleeger, a Pennsylvania resident, sued defendants Wyeth (incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New Jersey), its division Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (headquartered in Pennsylvania), and Greenstone, Ltd. (a Delaware limited liability company headquartered in New Jersey), all manufacturers of hormone replacement drugs, in federal court in Minnesota. Fleeger’s case was transferred by the federal Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, where thousands of similar cases are pending. See In re Prempro Products Liability Litigation, MDL-1507 (E.D. Ark.). After the case was transferred, defendants Wyeth and Greenstone moved for summary judgment on grounds that Fleeger’s claims were time-barred. Under the laws of Pennsylvania, where Fleeger lives, injured plaintiffs have two years in which to file suit. Under the laws of Minnesota, where Fleeger’s lawsuit was filed, injured plaintiffs have six years in which to file suit. See Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(10) (2008) (prescribing that actions for tort resulting in personal injury must be filed within six years).

“Until 1977, Minnesota law provided that when a case arose outside of Minnesota that was time-barred under the laws of the place where it arose, such case could be filed in Minnesota only if the plaintiff was a Minnesota resident. Minn. Stat. § 541.14 (1976). Section 541.14 was repealed in 1977. In 2004, the legislature enacted Minn. Stat. § 541.31, subd. 1(a) (2008), which provides that if a claim is substantively based on the law of another state, the statute of limitations of that state applies. However, Minn. Stat. § 541.31, subd. 1(a) applies only to claims arising from incidents occurring on or after August 1, 2004. Minn. Stat. § 541.34 (2008).

“Defendants moved for summary judgment on grounds that the federal court should apply Pennsylvania, not Minnesota, law to Fleeger’s claims, and that under Pennsylvania law Fleeger’s claims are time-barred. At defendants’ request, the federal court agreed to certify to the Minnesota Supreme Court for decision the question of which state’s statute of limitations should apply. The certified question has been restated as follows: In a case commenced in Minnesota, does the Minnesota statute of limitations apply to the personal injury claims of a non-Minnesota resident against a defendant not a resident of Minnesota, where the events giving rise to the claims did not occur in Minnesota and took place before August 1, 2004?”