In a significant victory for corporate defendants, the New Jersey Supreme Court today pulled back the reins on potential damages under the New Jersey Products Liability Act (PLA), holding that the PLA does not include the remedy of medical monitoring when no physical injury is alleged. The Supreme Court’s decision in Sinclair v. Merck & Co., Inc. specifically reverses a contrary holding by the New Jersey Appellate Division issued last August.

These decisions are part of ongoing class action litigation arising out of Merck's withdrawal of Vioxx from the market. At the Appellate Division, the court held that Merck could be held liable for funding medical monitoring of former Vioxx users even though users exhibited no present physical injury from having taken Vioxx.

Reversing, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the Appellate Division's holding was not supported by the text of the PLA. Rather, focusing on the Act’s definition of "harm," the Court held that the PLA requires a plaintiff to allege a "physical injury" from his or her use of the product. Because the plaintiffs did not allege a physical injury, the Court concluded that their medical-monitoring claims must fail.

For more information regarding this case, please contact David M. Stauss at staussd@ballardspahr.com.


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