Recently, Stark & Stark’s Mass Tort team successfully argued for the reinstatement of two dozen previously dismissed wrongful death claims against Bristol-Myers Squibb. U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Arpert ruled that federal toxic tort law preempts any limitations period in New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act. Originally, it had been held that the time that plaintiffs had to file their claims was restricted to two years after death. This latest ruling expands the time to when plaintiffs knew, or reasonably should have known, that Bristol-Myers Squibb caused the plaintiffs’ deaths.
In these cases, plaintiffs allege that Bristol-Myers Squibb knew that its manufacturing facility in New Brunswick, New Jersey, had contaminated the surrounding working class neighborhood for several decades, but failed to notify residents. Plaintiffs further allege that they had no way of knowing the extent of toxic contaminants discharged into their neighborhood by Bristol-Myers Squibb, including chromium, arsenic and chlorinated solvents.
Judge Arpert’s ruling allows 24 families, who were previously barred from seeking compensation, the ability to have their case heard and adjudicated. You can read coverage of Judge Arpert’s decision here and here.