Southern District of Texas Holds Learned Intermediary Doctrine Applies to Clinical Trials

Does the learned intermediary doctrine apply in the context of a clinical trial?  According to the Southern District of Texas, it does.  The case in question is Butler et al. v. Juno Therapeutics, Inc., a tragic case involving the death of a 19-year-old woman with terminal leukemia who died within days of receiving an experimental cancer drug as a participant in a clinical trial.

In 2015, Juno Therapeutics (Juno) was developing a treatment for advanced blood cancers involving Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy.  CAR-T therapy is designed to modify a patient’s white blood cells to target cancer cells with the goal of improving the patient’s condition so a bone marrow or stem cell transplant can be tolerated.  In October 2015, Juno entered into a Clinical Study Agreement with MD Anderson (and other hospitals) as part of a Phase 2 clinical trial (the “Rocket Study”) of a drug identified as JCAR015, a CAR-T therapy.  Drs. William Wierda and Michael Rytting were the principal investigators of the Rocket Study at MD Anderson.

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Not All’s Well That Ends Well: The Seventh Circuit Misapplies Daubert, but Still Delivers a Victory

The nature of advocacy makes it hard sometimes for lawyers to focus solely on the outcome and the bottom line result.  How a court gets there may not matter much to the prevailing party in the dispute as they celebrate the win, but it may have an impact on later cases.  A recent example is the opinion in Burton et al. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., Inc., 2021 WL 1422814 (7th Cir. Apr. 15, 2021).  The court found the winner’s circle, but it dented the car a bit along the way.

[Disclosure/disclaimer:  The author filed an amicus brief in support of defendants in the case.]

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Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Breast Implant Cases on Preemption Grounds

The Ninth Circuit has confirmed in quadrophonic sound that plaintiffs cannot avoid preemption by relying on vague and speculative allegations to establish a parallel claim.  The court affirmed the dismissal of four lawsuits by plaintiffs claiming they were injured by breast implants on the grounds that their claims are barred by the 1976 Medical Device Amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (MDA).  Sewell v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC, et al., no. 19-56393; Vieira v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC, et al., no. 19-56394; Billetts v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC, et al., no. 19-56398; Nunn v. Mentor Worldwide, LLC, et al., no. 19-56391.

In each case, California plaintiffs alleged their breast implants were defective and caused them to experience fatigue, muscle pain, and migraines.  The district courts dismissed the complaints for failure to state a claim on grounds of preemption, and plaintiffs appealed.

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Failure to Fully Disclose Expert Opinions Results in Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) requires retained expert witnesses to provide an expert report which gives “a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.”  Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B)(i).  If a party fails to disclose information required under Rule 26(a)(2), “the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.”  Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1).  As a plaintiff in the Western District of Washington recently learned, failure to adhere to Rule 26 can be fatal to a case.

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Second Circuit Affirms Mirena MDL Court’s “Hard Look” at Plaintiffs’ Experts’ Methodology

On December 8, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Southern District of New York’s granting of summary judgment in favor of Bayer — and resulting closure of all cases against Bayer — in the Mirena multidistrict litigation (MDL). In re Mirena IUS Levonorgestrel-Related Prod. Liab. Litig. (No. II), No. 19-2155, 2020 WL 7214264 (2d Cir. Dec. 8, 2020).

In the MDL, the plaintiffs alleged that the Mirena Intrauterine System had caused them to develop idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). The District Court elected to focus first on whether the plaintiffs had evidence sufficient to establish general causation. The District Court held a Daubert hearing that lasted three days and featured testimony by 19 general causation witnesses — 7 for the plaintiffs and 12 for Bayer. On October 24, 2018, the District Court entered a detailed 156-page opinion granting Bayer’s Daubert motion as to all of the plaintiffs’ experts and denying as moot plaintiffs’ motion to preclude Bayer’s experts. In re Mirena IUS Levonorgestrel-Related Prods. Liab. Litig., 341 F. Supp. 3d 213 (S.D.N.Y. 2018). Bayer then filed a motion for summary judgment, which the District Court granted for lack of general causation and dismissed all cases in the Mirena MDL.

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California [Again] Confronts the High Cost of Litigation Uncertainty

The first appellate shoe has dropped in the litigation involving the herbicide Roundup, Johnson v. Monsanto Co., decided July 20, 2020, by California’s 1st District Court of Appeal, Division One. We discussed the verdict and the trial court’s post-trial rulings here, and we now follow through with an update.

Initially, the price tag for allowing questionable science into the courtroom, as measured by this verdict, has been reduced. The court of appeal lowered the compensatory damages award from $39 million to about $10.25 million, concluding the jury had improperly awarded noneconomic damages that plaintiff would likely never suffer. Because plaintiff’s counsel had argued to the jury that plaintiff’s Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma had reduced his future life expectancy to two years, the jury could not award pain and suffering damages beyond that two-year span. And, agreeing with the trial court that constitutional limits required a 1:1 ratio between compensatory and punitive damages, the court slashed the $78 million punitive award to about $10.5 million.

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