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In re Mirapex Products Liability Litigation

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 10, 2019

In re: Mirapex Products Liability Litigation
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al. Defendants - Appellees Marc Mancini Plaintiff - Appellant

          Submitted: October 16, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, LOKEN and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.


         Mirapex is a dopamine agonist that is FDA-approved for treating adults with Parkinson's disease and movement disorders. On December 30, 2010, Marc Mancini filed this action against the defendant pharmaceutical companies, alleging they are liable for substantial gambling and other financial losses that resulted from obsessive compulsive behavior, a side effect of taking Mirapex. The action was filed in the District of Minnesota as part of the multi-district Mirapex Products Liability Litigation. Mancini appeals the district court's[1] grant of summary judgment dismissing all claims as barred by the applicable California statute of limitations. He argues the district court erred in not tolling the statute of limitations because he was "insane" and in rejecting his "continuing violations" theory, issues we review de novo, and abused its discretion in denying his motion to stay defendants' motion for summary judgment pending discovery. We affirm.

         I. Background.

         Mancini is a resident of California and a successful educator and travel industry speaker and consultant. In June 2004, doctors noted symptoms consistent with mild idiopathic Parkinson's disease. In January 2006, Dr. Mark Lew, Mancini's treating neurologist, prescribed Mirapex to treat worsening symptoms.

         On January 3, 2008, Mancini reported to Dr. Lew that he experienced increased gambling and other compulsive behaviors after taking Mirapex. Dr. Lew's notes stated that Mancini reported "gambling and winning but not excessively." Dr. Lew informed Mancini of a possible association between Mirapex and compulsive behaviors such as gambling. On April 23, 2008, Mancini again reported gambling and other compulsive behaviors. Dr. Lew's notes from this visit stated that Mancini "has increasing stress at work" and "has become a bit more compulsive." "He tells me that this is controlled, and he does not have any significant problems," Dr. Lew wrote, "but with the stress, he has noted the compulsions to be a bit more intense. On occasion he . . . described it as 'driving a car without brakes.'" Dr. Lew told Mancini he had "substantial and significant concerns" about Mancini's gambling and impulsive behavior. "We talked about the potential of simply cutting back on his Mirapex . . . . Currently he is quite resistant to this. He will return to see me in 3 months' time."

         Mancini continued to take Mirapex until mid-July 2010, when his family learned of substantial debts resulting from gambling. Three days after stopping Mirapex, Mancini saw Dr. Lew, who noted worsening tremors but advised that Mancini "needs to stay off his Mirapex" and turn to other "therapeutic options." Dr. Lew's notes stated that "every visit I have had since [Mancini] has been on Mirapex for better than 5 years, we discuss[ed] the potential for compulsive behaviors, and he flat out denied any significant problem."

         II. Discussion.

         In reviewing whether Mancini's claims are time-barred, important issues are not disputed. The parties agree that California law governs the statute of limitations issue, and that California's two year statute of limitations for personal injury claims resulting from the ingestion of pharmaceutical drugs applies. See Cal. Code Civ. P. §§ 335.1, 340.8(a). The district court found, and Mancini does not dispute on appeal, that his claims initially accrued no later than April 23, 2008, because he suspected or should have suspected that he had been wronged by defendants as a result of his visits to Dr. Lew in January and April 2008. Thus, the claims filed in December 2010 appear to be time-barred. But Mancini argues the district court erred in granting summary judgment because the statute of limitations was tolled until July 2010, and because continuing violations are not time-barrred.

         A. The Tolling Issue.

         As relevant here, section 352(a) of the California Code of Civil Procedure provides that, "[i]f a person entitled to bring an action . . . is, at the time the cause of action accrued . . . insane, the time of the disability is not part of the time limited for the commencement of the action."[2] Consistent with the statute's plain language, it applies even if the plaintiff's insanity is caused by the wrongful act of the defendant. See Feeley v. S. Pac. Transp. Co., 285 Cal.Rptr. 666, 667 (Cal.App. 1991). Thus, if Mancini was "insane" within the meaning of § 352(a) when his claim accrued in early 2008, the two-year statute of limitations would be tolled, presumably until he stopped taking Mirapex in July 2010. Mancini argues the district court erred in granting defendants summary judgment on this issue.

         The statute, first enacted in 1872, does not define the word "insane." In an early case, the Supreme Court of California affirmed a jury verdict that the plaintiff ...

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