(CN) – The Supreme Court agreed to review the 3rd Circuit’s decision to reinstate a securities fraud class action accusing Merck of misleading shareholders by downplaying the heart-attack risks linked to the painkiller Vioxx.
A federal judge had dismissed the case after finding that the 2003 lawsuit fell outside the two-year statute of limitations.
The judge agreed with Merck that, given the data available in 2001, the plaintiffs should have known about the alleged fraud at least two years before they sued.
However, shareholders convinced the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court that the two-year window had not expired, because Merck did not become fully aware of the health risks associated with Vioxx until 2003, when Harvard released an eye-opening study.
The Supreme Court might clarify when the clock started running on the shareholders’ claims, and how much information is enough to trigger the statute of limitations.
The justices agreed to take up the case without comment.