File this under back to the drawing board. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has decided that lawsuits filed by 14 women against Pfizer's Wyeth and Pharmacia units over links between breast cancer and hormone replacement therapies were incorrectly dismissed by a lower court. And the ruling (read it here) could restore as many as 1,000 mass tort lawsuits to the docket in Phildelphia Common Pleas Court.
At issue was whether Elizabeth Coleman could have reasonably known that her breast cancer was linked to one of the HRT meds she was prescribed prior to the 2002 disclosure by the Women's Health Initiative showing the drugs can cause the afflication. A lower court determined Coleman should have known or had reason to investigate such a link even before the WHI study was released. The ruling backed Pfizer, which aruged a two-year statute of limitations in which to file a lawsuit had expired.
However, the Superior Court decided that Coleman - and 13 other women whose lawsuits indicated they were all diagnosed with breast cancer between 1998 and 2002 after taking an HRT - could not be expected to have made such a link. As a result, lawyers involved in the litigation tell The Legal Intelligencer that up to 1,000 similar cases may now be reactivated. Pfizer's Wyeth, by the way, marketed Prempro and Premarin, while Pharmacia sold Provera.
"Coleman's diagnosis of breast cancer did not automatically place her on notice that her injury was caused by a third party. In fact, one could reasonably conclude, based upon the record before us, that diagnosis would not likely trigger inquiry into a third-party cause of her injury. There are factual inconsistencies as to what Coleman was told and by whom and what was generally known and understood about HRT and breast cancer," the court ruled. "...the determination of what Coleman knew or should have known with reasonable diligence under the circumstances remains a matter of dispute."