McCarrell v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc.

Citation153 A.3d 207,227 N.J. 569
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Decision Date24 January 2017
Parties Andrew MCCARRELL, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. HOFFMANN–LA ROCHE, INC., and Roche Laboratories, Inc., Defendants–Respondents.

227 N.J. 569
153 A.3d 207

Andrew MCCARRELL, Plaintiff–Appellant,
v.
HOFFMANN–LA ROCHE, INC., and Roche Laboratories, Inc., Defendants–Respondents.

Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Argued October 13, 2016
Decided January 24, 2017


David R. Buchananargued the cause for appellant (Seeger Weiss, attorneys; Mr. Buchanan, Michael D. Hook and Mary JaneBass, members of the Florida bar, on the briefs).

Paul W. Schmidt, a member of the District of Columbia bar, argued the cause for respondents (Gibbonsand Dughi Hewit & Domalewski, attorneys; Mr. Schmidt, Michelle M. Bufano, Natalie H. Mantell, Russell L. Hewit, and Michael X. Imbroscio, a member of the District of Columbia bar, of counsel and on the briefs).

Christopher M. Placitella argued the cause for amicus curiaeNew Jersey Association for Justice (Cohen, Placitella & Roth, attorneys; Mr. Placitellaand Jared M. Placitella, of counsel and on the brief).

David R. Kott argued the cause for amicus curiaeThe New Jersey Civil Justice Institute (Mr. Kottand

153 A.3d 210

Edward J. Fanning, Jr., of counsel; Mr. Kott, Mr. Fanning, and Gary R. Tulp, on the brief).

JUSTICE ALBIN delivered the opinion of the Court.

227 N.J. 573

Over the years, our choice-of-law jurisprudence has striven to structure rules that will lead to predictable and uniform results that are fair and just and that will meet the reasonable expectations of the parties. In this appeal, we attempt to advance that goal.

Accutane is a prescription medication for the treatment of severe cases of acne. In this products-liability action filed in New Jersey, plaintiff Andrew McCarrell, an Alabama resident, claims that he developed a virulent form of inflammatory bowel disease as a result of taking Accutane. He also claims that had Accutane's warning labels adequately informed him of the risks and dangers associated with Accutane, he would not have taken the medication.

Plaintiff was prescribed and took Accutane in Alabama, and he developed and was treated for inflammatory bowel disease in that state. Defendants Hoffmann–La Roche, Inc., and Roche Laboratories, Inc., both New Jersey corporations, (collectively Roche), designed, manufactured, and labeled Accutane in New Jersey and distributed the medication from this State.

227 N.J. 574

Plaintiff timely filed the products-liability action under New Jersey's statute of limitations, but Alabama's limitations period had expired by the time of the filing. The issue is which state's statute of limitations applies under New Jersey's choice-of-law jurisprudence.

The trial court concluded that under the governmental-interest test articulated in Gantes v. Kason Corp. , 145 N.J. 478, 484, 679 A. 2d 106 (1996), New Jersey's statute of limitations applied. In the most recent trial of this case, a jury found Roche liable on plaintiff's failure-to-warn claim and awarded damages.

The Appellate Division reversed and dismissed the action, finding that Alabama's statute of limitations governed under the substantial-relationship test in sections 146, 145, and 6 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Law (1971) (Am. Law Inst. , amended 1988) (Restatement (Second) ). The American Law Institute crafted that test to determine whether the forum state's or another state's substantive law applies in a tort action. That test begins with a presumption favoring the law of the state where the injury occurred.

The American Law Institute, however, fashioned a different test to resolve choice-of-law determinations involving statutes of limitations. Under section 142 of the Second Restatement, the statute of limitations of the forum state—here, New Jersey—applies if that state has a substantial interest in the maintenance of the claim and there are no "exceptional circumstances" that "make such a result unreasonable."

We hold that section 142 of the Second Restatement is now the operative choice-of-law rule for resolving statute-of-limitations conflicts because it will channel judicial discretion and lead to more predictable and uniform results that are consistent with the just expectations of the parties. The adoption of section 142 is also a natural progression in our conversion from the governmental-interest test to the Second Restatement begun in P.V. ex rel. T.V. v. Camp Jaycee , 197 N.J. 132, 962 A. 2d 453 (2008), which adopted

227 N.J. 575

sections 146, 145, and 6 for resolving conflicts of substantive tort law. The Appellate Division mistakenly read Camp Jaycee as suggesting that we would adopt the same choice-of-law rule for purposes of both substantive law and statutes of limitations.

153 A.3d 211

An analysis under section 142 of the Second Restatement leads to the conclusion that New Jersey's statute of limitations was properly applied to this products-liability action. Our jurisprudence has long recognized that this State has a substantial interest in deterring its manufacturers from placing dangerous products in the stream of commerce. Inadequate warning labels can render prescription medications dangerous. No exceptional circumstances are present that would render the application of New Jersey's limitations period unreasonable. Importantly, even were we to apply our previous governmental-interest test, the outcome would be no different.

We therefore reverse and reinstate the jury's verdict and award. We remand to the Appellate Division for consideration of the unaddressed issues remaining on appeal.

I.

A.

In July 2003, plaintiff filed a products-liability action in the Superior Court, Law Division, alleging that defendant Roche—the New Jersey manufacturer, marketer, and distributor of Accutane —failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks and side effects associated with taking Accutane. Plaintiff asserts that had he received proper warnings about the potentially devastating side effects of Accutane, he would not have taken the medication, which he claims was the proximate cause of his inflammatory bowel disease. Plaintiff also alleges that Roche's mislabeling of Accutane violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8–1 to –20.

The sole issue before us is whether the statute of limitations of New Jersey (the forum state) or Alabama (the injury-site state)

227 N.J. 576

governs this case. From the voluminous trial and pre-trial record, we recite the facts relevant to address that issue.

B.

Plaintiff, a resident of Alabama, had suffered from acne since high school, and antibiotics proved to be an ineffective treatment. In June 1995, when plaintiff was twenty-four years old, his dermatologist prescribed Accutane. Plaintiff took daily doses of the medicine for the next four months. Four weeks into the treatment program, plaintiff experienced dry eyes, achy joints, and chapped lips but complained of no other adverse side effects. After completing his regimen of Accutane, plaintiff noticed that his skin was clearer. At a four-month post–Accutane review with his dermatologist in February 1996, plaintiff reported that the prior side effects had subsided and that he had experienced no new health problems.

In August 1996, ten months after he stopped taking Accutane, plaintiff began experiencing intense stomach pain and diarrhea. Over the next several months, plaintiff's condition worsened, and his primary care physician referred him to a gastroenterologist. In November 1996, plaintiff was diagnosed as suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. By the next month, as a result of constant bleeding from the rectum, plaintiff became anemic. Plaintiff's weight had dropped from 162 pounds, his pre–Accutane weight, to just 114 pounds at this point.

Over the next several years, plaintiff underwent multiple surgeries. Plaintiff's colon and rectum were removed and replaced with a j-pouch —an artificially constructed reservoir at the end of the small intestines—that is intended to allow for ordinary bowel movements. The j-pouch became inflamed, causing plaintiff to suffer persistent and severe gastrointestinal pain and flu-like symptoms. To permit the

153 A.3d 212

j-pouch to heal, a colostomy bag was attached to plaintiff's small intestine through a surgical procedure. Plaintiff subsisted with the colostomy bag for four-and-one-half years until another surgery reconnected the j-pouch to the small

227 N.J. 577

intestine. Plaintiff continues to suffer from severe abdominal cramping, multiple bowel movements every day, and episodes of incontinence.

Plaintiff was prescribed and took Accutane in Alabama and was treated for the medical complications related to inflammatory bowel disease in that state.

C.

Defendants Hoffmann–La Roche, Inc., and Roche Laboratories, Inc., were incorporated in New Jersey and maintained their corporate offices here. They designed, manufactured, and labeled Accutane in New Jersey and distributed the product from this State.

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