Plaintiffs involved in Reglan litigation won a big victory against brand name drug manufacturers Wyeth, Pfizer, and Schwarz Pharma, as the result of a very good decision recently decided by the Alabama Supreme Court. A Reglan case filed in the Middle District of Alabama, (Weeks v. Wyeth), prompted the certification of a question to the Court. The Court was asked to resolve the issue of whether brand-name Defendants can be held liable in cases where the Plaintiff only ingested the generic form of the drug.
The Defendants based their argument on a federal case from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, (Foster v. American Home Products), which held that a brand-name Defendant could not be held liable on such claims. The Alabama Supreme Court, however, not only held that brand Defendants may be held liable for harm caused by generic drugs, but that it would be unfair not to do so. The Court stated that the company which manufactured the drug taken by the injured Plaintiff is “irrelevant” to misrepresentation and fraud theories based on information and warning deficiencies created by the brand manufacturer as the original author of the warning labels.
The Court recognized a crucial element to these claims regarding generic drug use. The federal requirement is that generic labeling must be the same as the brand name’s labeling. This obligation of sameness makes it foreseeable that any defects or omissions in the brand labeling would necessarily be repeated in the generic labeling, and that harm would be caused to a patient ingesting the generic drug due to those brand labeling defects.
Furthermore, the Court in this case contemplated the learned intermediary doctrine, which requires drug manufacturers to adequately warn physicians about a drug’s risks and benefits. The Court held that a brand manufacturer could reasonably foresee that a physician who prescribes drugs to a patient would rely on warnings drafted by the brand, even if the patient ultimately used the generic version. That certainly is logical and makes complete sense.
For cases that were stayed pending the outcome of this decision, it is expected that the stays will be lifted so that litigation can continue. Chris Hood, a very good lawyer with The Heninger firm in Birmingham, represented the Plaintiff in the Weeks’ case. Chris and his folks did an outstanding job, not only for their client, but for all other victims. If you have questions about the status of Reglan litigation generally, contact Danielle Ward Mason, a lawyer in our Mass Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Danielle.Mason@beasleyallen.com.
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