California Clarifies Statute of Limitations for In Utero Toxic Exposure Claims

There are many chemicals that can cause birth defects in pregnant women who are exposed to them. Generally, the statute of limitations for toxic exposure cases is only two years. That means that if you try to bring a toxic exposure claim after the two years have elapsed, the claims will likely be time barred. However, with cases of in utero toxic exposure, it may take much longer than two years to fully understand the nature and causes of the injuries. Thatis why prenatal injuries have a six year statute of limitations.

Seemingly in conflict with the two- and six-year statute of limitations, the statute of limitations for toxic exposure cases is generally tolled while the injured party is a minor. A case heard by the California Supreme Court centers around whether the six years apply to in utero toxic exposure or whether a potential plaintiff has until they are 19 or 20 (18 plus the two years, give or take a bit due to when the exposure occurs) to bring the claim.

If you suspect that you have been injured by toxic exposure, whether in utero or as an adult, you should contact a knowledgeable Southern California personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Time is of the essence to make sure you get your claim filed within the time limits.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was born in 1999 with many severe birth defects, including chromosomal deletion, a misshapen kidney, facial asymmetry, cervical vertebrae fusion, and others. She was also diagnosed with developmental delays. Her mother had worked at an electronics company for 20 years, including when she was pregnant with the plaintiff. The mother of the plaintiff believes that during her employment she was exposed to toxic chemicals which caused the plaintiff’s birth defects. The plaintiff sued the electronics company when she was 12 years old.

The electronics company argued that the six-year statute of limitations for in utero injuries had elapsed and thus the plaintiff’s claim was time barred. The statute they were referring to did not have a tolling provision for while the child is a minor. However, plaintiff argued that the governing statute was not the prenatal injury statute and the accompanying six year limitation period but instead the toxic exposure statute. That statute does toll during minority. The California Court of Appeal held that the six-year statute applied to this case and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff appealed to the California Supreme Court.

Statutory Interpretation

The court in this case was tasked with determining which of the statutes applied. They first looked at the plain meaning of the statutes, but they appeared to conflict. The court then looked at legislative intent. They looked at when the different statutes were created and what they could imply the legislature intended by the choices they made. The California Supreme Court held that the toxic exposure statute, and thus the longer time period, applied. Therefore, the case is able to go forward and the granting of summary judgment in favor of the defendant is overturned.

Contact an Experienced Southern California Personal Injury Attorney Today

As this case addresses, statutes of limitations are an important consideration when filing a lawsuit. Thus, you should contact a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Neumann Law Group can help you to pursue your toxic exposure claim. Neumann Law Group serves clients in Southern California, including Los Angeles and Huntington Beach. Use the contact form on this website or call (213) 277-0001 to schedule your free consultation today.

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