McMaster v. Dewitt – Statute of Limitations Bars Adderall Prescription Lawsuit

Adderall, a powerful medication frequently prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder, has come under heightened scrutiny in recent years for its many serious adverse side effects, particularly among those with a history of mental illness and/or addiction. It’s an amphetamine-based stimulant, and is known to have a high risk for addiction.
Incidents of overdose and suicide have in some cases given rise to product liability claims against the companies who make them. Additionally, physicians have been sued for allegedly prescribing the drug improperly or failing to properly monitor patients who took the drug.

As with any injury related to a prescription drug, injured parties need to weigh carefully whether to pursue litigation against the manufacturer/distributor of the drug or the physician/health care provider. The two involve very different theories of negligence. When suing a manufacturer/distributor, one alleges the medication was somehow defective, and there is usually an assertion of failure to warn consumers of those dangers. Litigation against a health care provider, meanwhile, involves the assertion he or she failed to adhere to applicable standards of care for that area of expertise.

In both situations, plaintiffs must file the lawsuit within a certain period of time, called a statute of limitations. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for both medical malpractice and products liability is three years. Our Greenville injury lawyers know these matters can be somewhat complicated, particularly in medical malpractice cases, which allow for the clock to start ticking on claims either from the date of injury or from when it was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. That means it’s possible that claims might be brought after the three-year mark, but exceptions are going to be weighed individually on the merits.

A recent Adderall medical malpractice case was halted by the South Carolina Court of Appeals on grounds the claim was not filed within the appropriate amount of time. In McMaster v. Dewitt and Carolina Psychiatric Services, the court ruled the claim was filed one month too late.

According to court records, plaintiff was treated by physician for adult attention deficit disorder, for which he was prescribed Adderall. In mid-May 2008, patient was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in a “delusional and paranoid state.” He was discharged a few weeks later, and soon after, the doctor stopped prescribing the drug. About four weeks after his release, he was once again admitted to the hospital in a “paranoid delusional and psychotic state.”

In June 2011, plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, alleging he suffered an Adderall-induced psychosis related to the over-prescription of the drug and the doctor’s failure to monitor.

Defendants argued the claim was barred by the statute of limitations, which began ticking after his first hospitalization in May 2008. That would have meant his claim was filed just one month after the deadline passed.

Patient stated he was not aware of the doctor’s alleged negligence until June 2008, because no one told him when he was hospitalized the first time that it was Adderall that caused his psychosis. This was a deviation from the testimony he provided earlier, in which he stated the physician’s partner revealed Adderall was likely the cause of his injury and defendant doctor had a “tendency to over-prescribe amphetamines.”

Trial court granted summary judgment on the basis the claim was time-barred, and the appellate court affirmed. The outcome is unfortunate for plaintiff, who it seems would have had a decent case otherwise.

This is an example of why one must consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible when considering the possibility of filing a lawsuit.

Contact the South Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
McMaster v. Dewitt and Carolina Psychiatric Services, Dec. 3, 2014, South Carolina Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:
Temple v. Mary Washington Hospital: On Discovery Motions in Medical Malpractice Cases, Oct. 16, 2014, Greenville Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog

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