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Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co.

Supreme Court of California
44 Cal. 3d 1103, 1118-1126, 245 Cal. Rptr. 658, 751 P.2d 923 (1988)


Jolly (plaintiff) was in utero when her mother took the synthetic drug estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage. Jolly was born in 1951. Jolly learned in 1972 that a mother’s use of DES while pregnant could harm her fetus. Jolly went to a medical clinic, where she was diagnosed with a precancerous condition. By 1976, Jolly’s condition had developed into cancer. Jolly had some affected tissue surgically removed, and in 1978, she underwent a hysterectomy and partial vaginectomy to eliminate the cancer. Jolly was unable to learn the source of the DES prescribed to her mother. However, in 1980 the Supreme Court of California held in Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories, 607 P.2d 924 (1980), that victims who were unable to identify the source of their mothers’ DES could instead state a cause of action against DES manufacturers who produced a substantial market share of the drug. Less than one year after the Sindell decision, Jolly sued a number of DES manufacturers (defendants). The California Code of Civil Procedure § 340 (3) placed a one-year statute of limitations on suits for tortious injuries. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Jolly’s suit was time barred. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion. Jolly appealed. The court of appeals reversed and remanded. The defendants appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Panelli, J.)

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