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Court Clarifies Deadline in Drug Liability Cases

(CN) - A patient filing a drug liability complaint must sue within 10 years of the drug's emergence on the market, even if he mistakenly sued the wrong drug company first, Europe's high court ruled.

A man who received French drug company Aventis Pasteur SA's antihaemophilius vaccine, which counters the disease-causing bacteria haemophilius, sued the wrong company for damages when he suffered brain damage after getting the vaccine.

The patient went after Merieux/Aventis Pasteur MSD, a subsidiary of Aventis Pasteur SA acting as the vaccine supplier. By the time he discovered his mistake, the 10-year statute of limitations on drug liability complaints had expired.

A court can only change a named defendant after the 10-year period expires if the drug producer wholly owns the subsidiary that distributed the drug, or if the drug producer put the drug into circulation in the first place, the Court of Justice ruled.

It said the supplier is considered the producer if it failed to promptly inform the injured person of the identities of the producer and its own supplier.

The court turned the case over to the national court to determine if Aventis Pasteur MSD can be considered a producer.

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