Georgia vs. Texas

No, this post is not about college football. (Spring practices have just gotten under way at most colleges around the country and unfortunately for this blogger, August can’t get here soon enough!) Today’s post is a reflection upon the recent Georgia and Texas cases dealing with the learned intermediary defense (previous discussed individually on this site here and here). Specifically, I wanted to highlight a key distinction in how each court analyzed the doctrine.

In Dietz v. Smithkline Beecham Corp., No. 09-10167, 2010 WL 744273 (11th Cir. March 5, 2010) the court was interpreting Georgia law and correctly focused on the proximate cause between the decedent’s death and the adequacy of the warning provided to the physician. Dietz at *2-3. The court’s analysis was that the court, when applying the doctrine, must first look to the adequacy of the warning that was given. Id. at *2. The court cited to well-established Georgia case law that states that if the warning is adequate, the analysis ends and the plaintiff is barred from recovery. Id. In Dietz, the evidence was that the decedent’s physician testified that regardless of whether he knew about the increased risk of suicide with the use of Paxil, he still would have prescribed the drug to the decedent. Id. As such, the court reasoned that the Plaintiff could not establish proximate cause since the alleged failure to warn did not have an effect on the decision to prescribe the drug.

In seemingly direct contrast, the court in Centocor, Inc. v. Hamilton, No. 13-07-00301-CV, 2010 WL 744212 (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi March 4, 2010, no pet h.), in its creation of an exception to the learned intermediary doctrine, did not end its analysis with a determination of the adequacy of the warning. In Centocor, the evidence was that the Plaintiff’s physician that originally prescribed the drug at issue, Remicade, testified that he warned her of the potential risk of developing a lupus-like syndrome. Centocor at *6. As such, it would appear that the physician warned the Plaintiff of the exact risk that was the basis for her lawsuit–she developed a lupus-like syndrome after taking the drug. Instead of ending the analysis with the initial physician’s testimony, the court then went into a long discussion about advertising techniques of drug companies and the theoretical underpinnings of the doctrine.

In this blogger’s opinion, the Centocor court should have ended its analysis when it found that the Plaintiff’s physician provided her with a warning about the risk of developing a lupus-like syndrome. Based on the doctor’s testimony, any potential proximate cause link between use of the drug and any warning would have been severed. I, along with others, am left to wonder how a physician’s direct warning of a potential risk can not, as a matter of law, be an adequate warning and thus invoke the doctrine?

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