On October 16th a federal judge in Alabama, denied a request by Pfizer Inc. to delay by three months the start of a trial in federal court in a lawsuit that claims the pharmaceutical giant’s anti-smoking drug Chantix caused a Minnesota man to commit suicide. U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson wrote in her ruling: “Given the current posture of this case, the court is of the opinion that a three-month continuance is not appropriate or needed.”
Pfizer made the request to delay the trial after the release on the same day of a new clinical study on Chantix. The trial, which started on October 22nd in Florence, Ala., is the first federal lawsuit to go before a jury out of more than 2,600 lawsuits filed so far against Pfizer over Chantix. The lawsuits, filed by smokers or their families, claim the drug has caused suicides, suicide attempts, or other psychological problems. Judge Johnson was assigned in late 2009 to oversee all the lawsuits. Pfizer denies the claims in the lawsuits and has continually maintained Chantix helps smokers kick the habit.
Judy Ann Whitely, the Duluth, Minn. woman, filed her lawsuit after her husband committed suicide less than two weeks after he began taking Chantix. This case was selected to be the first bellwether case among the 2,600 lawsuits. Pfizer, in its motion, asked for the delay to allow both sides to consider the new clinical study on the safety of Chantix in smokers with major depression. The clinical study was conducted at the request of the European Medicines Agency. Judge Johnson wrote on that issue in her order:
Defendant’s concern about litigation getting ahead of science does not create any cause for a sudden halt to litigation which has been pending since 2009, based on a study for which defendant controlled when the results were made public. Similarly troublesome is the fact that there are ongoing studies, some of which have 2017 completion dates. The court will not postpone cases which are already two and three years old for another five years to allow completion of yet more studies.
Judge Johnson ruled that she will allow both sides to use results of the study. The judge also wrote about the inconvenience to the court and jury, stating:
The current trial date has been on the court’s calendar for more than a year and in fact, the undersigned has arranged her entire docket around the trial of this action. Court personnel have rearranged other matters to devote those resources to this action. More than ninety potential jurors have traveled to the courthouse and spent their time to complete the jury questionnaire, for which the court has compensated them. Of those, approximately 60 potential jurors have been told to report to the courthouse in Florence, Alabama, for jury selection. The court finds this factor weighs heavily against any such continuance.
It will be most interesting to see how the trial comes out. But regardless of the outcome, it’s good to see how Judge Johnson is handling the request for a delay in the trial. Ernie Corey, a lawyer from Birmingham, represents the Plaintiffs in the Florence trial.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.