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Motus v. Pfizer Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Motus went to his doctor because he was having personal problems, which resulted in unhappiness and difficulties sleeping. The doctor prescribed Motus Zoloft, and gave him a sample packet of Zoloft, which did not contain any warnings. Zolofot was associated, along with other antidepressants, with a high risk of suicide. Subsequently, Motus committed suicide. Motus’s widow, Plaintiff, brought suit against Pfizer, Inc., the drug’s manufacture contending it was liable for failing to include a warning that the drug’s use could cause suicide. Pfizer motioned for summary judgment. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under California law, the plaintiff must present evidence that a prescription drug’s inadequate warning caused her injury by showing an adequate warning would have caused the prescribing doctor to treat the patient differently.

    Facts.

    On November 6, 1998, Victor Motus’doctor, Gerald Trostler, prescribed Motus the antidepressant Zoloft becauseMotus disclosed personal problems resulting in unhappiness and difficulty sleeping. Trostler made Motus a prescription thatgave him a sample packet of Zoloft, which Trostler received from a representative of Pfizer Inc., Defendant, the drug’s manufacturer. The sample, itself, did not contain any warnings. Nonetheless, the box of samples Defendant gave to Trostler may have included a warning, but Trostler could not recall.Even if the sample box contained warning, Trostler never read any warnings provided by Pfizer. If Trostler did read the warning,Trostler would have known that some patients on Zoloft had attempted suicide while on the Zoloft trials. Zoloft, itself, was not the cause of the attempted suicide necessarily, but high supervision was recommended for high-risk patients. Nonetheless, Trostler prescribed Zoloft to Motusdueto his personal experience and information he received from journal articles. Trostler had previously met with Pfizer representatives but he could remember what they spoke about in regards to Zoloft. What Trostler was aware of, was that antidepressants are in the same category as Zoloft were been associated with a higher risk of suicide, but he rejected those studies based on his experience. On November 12, 1998, Motus committed suicide. During the six days that Motus was taking Zoloft, Trostler was not informed that Motus was having adverse reactions to the drug. Motus’s widow, Flora Motus, Plaintiff, brought suit against Pfizer claiming that it was liable for failing to adequately warn Zoloft could cause suicide. At Trostler’s deposition, Plaintiff never inquired into whether Trostler would have changed his treatment of Motus had Pfizer given him a specific warning about the risk of suicide. Pfizer motioned for summary judgment.

    Issue.

    Whether the plaintiff must present evidence that a prescription drug’s inadequate warning caused her injury by showing an adequate warning would have caused the prescribing doctor to treat the patient differently, under California law.

    Held.

    Yes, the plaintiff must present evidence that a prescription drug’s inadequate warning caused her injury by showing an adequate warning would have caused the prescribing doctor to treat the patient differently, under California law.

    Discussion.

    Under California law, the plaintiff must present evidence that a prescription drug’s inadequate warning caused her injury by showing an adequate warning would have caused the prescribing doctor to treat the patient differently. In this case, Plaintiff has not met her burden of demonstrating causation. Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence to indicate that had Pfizer provided a warning, Trostler’s conduct would have been different, such as he would not have given it to Motus. BecauseTrostler, generally,did not read the warning prior to prescribing the drug, Plaintiff cannot state that a different warning would have altered his decision. Also, Trostler was not notified that Motus was experiencing any adverse reaction to Zoloft, to be able to decline the continued use of it. Furthermore, the court refuses to apply a rebuttable presumption standard for findings of an inadequate warning on drug products shifts the burden to the defendant to prove that an adequate warning would not have altered the physician’s conduct. Lastly, Plaintiff has failed to meet her burden to establish that Pfizer over promoted the use of Zoloft. Therefore, summary judgment for Pfizer is granted.


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