Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Drugs & Biotech
Johnson v. C. R. Bard, Inc.
Hoping to minimize her risk of suffering serious complications from future blood clots, Johnson underwent surgery to implant a retrievable intravascular filter–a medical device that is placed in the inferior vena cava to prevent blood clots that develop in the lower body from flowing into the heart and lungs. Johnson’s doctor selected the Meridian filter, which was supposed to be temporary and easily removable. Johnson’s filter migrated and fractured, leaving shards embedded in the wall of her heart and elsewhere. Her surgeon was unable to remove the device safely and fully. As a result, Johnson faces an ongoing risk of infection, pain, and other complications.Johnson sued the manufacturers of the Meridian filter (Bard), claiming that they defectively designed the Meridian filter and failed to warn medical providers about the device’s risks, in violation of Wisconsin law. A jury rejected most of Johnson’s theories but returned a $3.3 million verdict in her favor on her strict liability failure-to-warn count. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that its decision “should not be misinterpreted as our endorsement of some of Johnson’s counsel’s trial tactics.” There was no reversible error in instructing the jury or in permitting certain testimony, in alleged violation of expert witness disclosure requirements. View "Johnson v. C. R. Bard, Inc." on Justia Law
Onglyza Product Cases
In 2008, as part of the defendants’ application for approval of Onglyza and Kombiglyze XR, two diabetes drugs with saxagliptin as the active ingredient, the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee required that defendant AstraZeneca perform a cardiovascular outcomes study. “SAVOR” was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that consisted of 16,492 patients with type 2 diabetes who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The study concluded that saxagliptin did not increase or decrease the risk of these occurrences but noted a higher risk of hospitalization. Following SAVOR, the FDA required warning labels for medications containing saxagliptin, referring to the potential increased risk of heart failure. Researchers conducted additional studies and did not find an association between saxagliptin and an increased risk of hospitalization for heart failure.Patients who took drugs with saxagliptin filed approximately 250 related cases. Most of these cases were filed in federal court and consolidated into federal multidistrict litigation. A Judicial Council coordination proceeding (JCCP) was established for the California state court cases. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court upheld the exclusion of the plaintiffs’ general causation expert, who opined that saxagliptin can cause heart failure. View "Onglyza Product Cases" on Justia Law
Merck & Co., Inc. v. Bayer AG
In 2014, Merck and Bayer entered a Stock and Asset Purchase Agreement (SAPA) whereby Merck sold, and Bayer purchased, Merck’s consumer care business and consumer care product lines, including the Claritin, Coppertone, Dr. Scholl’s, and Lotrimin foot powder product lines. The transaction closed in October 2014. Bayer paid Merck more than $14 billion. After the transaction closed, both companies were the subject of lawsuits alleging injuries arising from consumers’ use of talc-based products that Merck used in foot powder product lines sold to Bayer; asbestos allegedly contained in talcum powder has caused fatal cancers.The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed Merck’s suit in which it argued that Bayer breached the SAPA by refusing to assume liability for the claims. Both companies, as sophisticated participants in the pharmaceutical industry, understood that consumer products businesses face potential liability for torts associated with the sale of such consumer products. The SAPA clearly and unambiguously provides that Merck indefinitely retained substantive liability for the product liability claims related to products sold before the transaction closed. Merck attempted to argue that its liability for the product liability claims ceased in 2021; the court found that interpretation contrary to the SAPA's clear and unambiguous terms. Bayer’s interpretation of the SAPA is the only reasonable one. View "Merck & Co., Inc. v. Bayer AG" on Justia Law
Amiodarone was developed in the 1960s for the treatment of angina and was released in other countries. Amiodarone is associated with side effects, including pulmonary fibrosis, blindness, thyroid cancer, and death. In the 1970s, U.S. physicians began obtaining amiodarone from other countries for use in patients with life-threatening ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia who did not respond to other drugs. In 1985, the FDA approved Wyeth’s formulation of amiodarone, Cordarone, as a drug of last resort for patients suffering from recurring life-threatening ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. The FDA’s “special needs” approval issued without randomized clinical trials. In 1989, the FDA described Wyeth’s promotional activities as promoting an unapproved use of the drug. In 1992, the FDA objected to promotional labeling pieces for Cordarone. Other manufacturers developed generic amiodarone, which has been available since 1998.Consolidated lawsuits alleged that plaintiffs suffered unnecessary, serious side effects when they took amiodarone, as prescribed by their doctors, for off-label use to treat atrial fibrillation, a more common, less serious, condition than ventricular fibrillation. The FDA never approved amiodarone for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, even on a special-needs basis. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuits. The claims are preempted as attempts to privately enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, regulations governing medication guides and labeling and have no independent basis in state law. The court also rejected fraud claims under California’s unfair competition law and Consumers Legal Remedy Act. View "Amiodarone Cases" on Justia Law
Blackburn v. Shire U.S., Inc., et al.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified a question of law to the Alabama Supreme Court. Dr. Dino Ferrante, a gastroenterologist, prescribed LIALDA, which is manufactured by Shire U.S., Inc., and Shire, LLC (referred to collectively as "Shire"), to help patient Mark Blackburn with his Crohn's disease. "LIALDA is the brand name for Shire's mesalamine drug, which is an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not approved by the FDA to treat Crohn's, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's 'sister' disease." After taking LIALDA for between 12 to 16 months, Blackburn discovered that he had developed kidney disease, specifically advanced chronic interstitial nephritis, which had resulted in irreversible scarring and had diminished his kidney function to 20% of normal capacity. As a result, Blackburn is awaiting a kidney transplant. The federal appellate court asked: (1) consistent with the learned intermediary doctrine, may a pharmaceutical company's duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks?; and (2) might a plaintiff establish that a failure to warn caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? The Supreme Court answered both questions in the affirmative. View "Blackburn v. Shire U.S., Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Thacker v. Ethicon, Inc.
Ethicon manufactures a mesh sling, used to treat stress urinary incontinence, and a posterior mesh “Prolift, “designed to treat pelvic organ prolapse. In 2009, Dr. Guiler surgically implanted both devices to treat Thacker. Before the surgery, Thacker reviewed and signed an informed consent form that listed several risks, including: “infections and/or erosions of the mesh” which could require additional follow-up surgeries, urinary retention, “[p]ainful intercourse and vaginal shortening,” and treatment failure. After the surgery, Thacker’s incontinence worsened, and she suffered from shooting pain in her groin area and severe abdominal swelling and bloating. In 2010, Thacker started experiencing severe and unbearable pain during intercourse.Thacker ultimately sued Ethicon, alleging strict liability and negligence claims under the Kentucky Product Liability Act for design defect and failure to warn. The district court granted Ethicon summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Dr. Guiler’s testimony suggested that he likely would have recommended a different course of treatment had Ethicon given adequate information. Thacker’s expert testified that no reasonable physician would have used the Pelvic Mesh Devices to treat Thacker had Ethicon given adequate information in 2009. A jury could accept that expert’s opinion that a feasible alternative design would have prevented Thacker’s injuries. View "Thacker v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law
Terry Paulsen v. Abbott Laboratories
To treat her endometriosis, Paulsen received Lupron injections in 2004 from her physician in Georgia. Shortly afterward she began experiencing health problems, including severe bone and joint pain, memory loss, and fevers. In April 2010, Paulsen filed a personal injury suit. Paulsen voluntarily dismissed her claims in 2014. In 2015, Paulsen filed a second lawsuit asserting product liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and misrepresentation. After several amended complaints and the addition of a defendant, two claims remained: a strict liability failure-to-warn claim against AbbVie and Abbott; and a negligent misrepresentation claim against Abbott. Limited discovery was permitted.The district court subsequently applied Illinois procedural law and Georgia substantive law, reasoning that Paulsen’s injury occurred in Georgia, and Illinois lacked a stronger relationship to the action, then granted the defendants summary judgment. The court ruled that Paulsen’s strict liability failure-to-warn claim was time-barred by Georgia’s 10-year statute of repose. Georgia does not recognize a stand-alone misrepresentation claim in product liability cases. Even if this cause of action did exist, the court reasoned, Paulsen’s misrepresentation claim would fail because “the undisputed evidence show[ed] that Abbott did not make any representations regarding Lupron.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court noted extensive evidence that Paulsen’s claims accrued before April 2008 and are barred by the Illinois two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries. View "Terry Paulsen v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law
Donaldson v. Johnson & Johnson
Donaldson sought treatment for stress urinary incontinence and anterior pelvic organ prolapse. In 2010, to remedy these conditions, Dr. Schultheis surgically implanted in Donaldson two transvaginal polypropylene mesh medical devices. Both were manufactured by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. In 2014, Donaldson sought treatment for injuries resulting from erosion of the mesh into her bladder, vagina, and adjacent tissues, causing scarring, bladder stones, and abdominal pain, among other problems. Information sheets packaged with the devices warned of the risks of erosion but Donaldson never saw the warnings and contends that Dr. Schultheis did not inform her of these risks. Dr. Schultheis testified that he was aware of the possible complications and that he believed that the benefits of the devices outweighed the risks. He also testified that, in implanting the devices, he followed all of the manufacturer’s instructions.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the manufacturers. Although there is no doubt that Donaldson suffered severe and painful complications after the devices were implanted, she failed to produce sufficient evidence to avoid summary judgment in her case for non-specific defects under Illinois product liability law. There was no evidence eliminating abnormal use or secondary causes, or that the device failed to perform as expected. View "Donaldson v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law
Dearinger v. Eli Lilly & Co.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question to the Washington Supreme Court, asking whether Washington law recognized an exception to the "learned intermediary doctrine" when a prescription drug manufacturer advertises its product directly to consumers. Under the learned intermediary doctrine, a prescription drug manufacturer satisfies its duty to warn patients of a drug’s risks when it adequately warns the prescribing physician. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative: there was no direct-to-consumer advertising exception. "The policies underlying the learned intermediary doctrine remain intact even in the direct-to-consumer advertising context. Further, existing state law sufficiently regulates product warnings and prescription drug advertising. Accordingly, we hold regardless of whether a prescription drug manufacturer advertises its products directly to consumers, the manufacturer satisfies its duty to warn a patient when it adequately warns the prescribing physician of the drug’s risks and side effects." View "Dearinger v. Eli Lilly & Co." on Justia Law
Blackburn v. Shire US Inc.
Blackburn, who has Crohn’s disease, was prescribed LIALDA, an anti-inflammatory drug specifically aimed at the gut. LIALDA is not FDA-approved to treat Crohn’s, but it is approved to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s “sister” disease. Blackburn was subsequently diagnosed with advanced-stage kidney disease. Blackburn does not claim that Shire, LIALDA’s manufacturer failed to warn of the risk of kidney disease; he and his doctor knew that the drug might impair his kidney function. Blackburn contends that Shire should have more explicitly warned his doctor about how regularly to monitor his kidney function after prescribing LIALDA. He contends that, if LIALDA’s warning label had been better, his physician would have discovered the effect on his kidneys sooner and prevented his injury.The Eleventh Circuit identified two unsettled, dispositive questions of Alabama law, which it certified to the state’s highest court. May a pharmaceutical company’s duty to warn include a duty to provide instructions about how to mitigate warned-of risks? May a plaintiff establish that an improper warning caused his injuries by showing that his doctor would have adopted a different course of testing or mitigation, even though he would have prescribed the same drug? View "Blackburn v. Shire US Inc." on Justia Law