Claims Related To Opioid Epidemic Time Barred


Ex parte Abbott Laboratories, [Ms. 1191001, May 28, 2021], ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2021). The Court (Mendheim, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Sellers, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Mitchell, J., recuses) issues a writ of mandamus to the Mobile Circuit Court directing dismissal of the Mobile County Health Department’s (“MCHD”) public nuisance claims against Abbott Labs arising from the opioid epidemic. The Court concludes from the face of the complaint that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations. The Court rejects MCHD’s argument based on a continuing public nuisance because the “allegations against Abbott in the complaint do not mention conduct of any kind by Abbott after 2006. This is important because there must be a connection between the defendant’s actions and the ongoing tort.” Ms. *21. The Court explains “the fact that the alleged opioid epidemic itself was ongoing at the time [MCHD] filed its original complaint does not mean that Abbott’s conduct in relation to the epidemic is not subject to the statute of limitations. As the Court explained in Payton [v. Monsanto Co., 801 So. 2d 829, 836 (Ala. 2001)]: ‘Alabama law does not recognize a continuing tort in instances where there has been a single act followed by multiple consequences.’” Ms. *23.

The Court also rejects MCHD’s argument that its claims are saved by tolling and explains the “complaint lacks any of the specificity required by Rule 9(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., for allegations of fraud against Abbott. Without such allegations, [MCHD] cannot meet its burden of demonstrating that its claims fall within the savings clause of § 6-2-3. Therefore, the applicable statutes of limitations on [MCHD’s] claims against Abbott are not tolled by the existence of fraud.” Ms. *27. Finally, the Court notes that “‘plaintiff’s ignorance of a tort or injury does not postpone the running of the statute of limitations until that tort is discovered.’ Payne v. Alabama Cemetery Ass’n, 413 So. 2d 1067, 1072 (Ala. 1982). See, e.g., Kelley v. Shropshire,199 Ala. 602, 605, 75 So. 291, 292 (1917) (same).” Ms. *31.

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