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Bryant v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary.

    A husband sues a pharmaceutical company alleging that the medication it manufactured suffered from design defect and caused his wife to suffer severe injuries.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Design-defect claims brought against pharmaceutical manufacturers are evaluated using risk-utility analysis.

    Facts.

    Clyde Bryant (Plaintiff) sued Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. (Defendant) after his wife Carolyn Bryant collapsed at the bottom of the stairs. She suffered severe brain injuries as a result. Carolyn was taking Betapace and Posicor to treat cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure, respectively. Plaintiff sued Defendant under design defect liability, alleging that the combination of Posicor with another drug caused Carolyn’s injuries. Plaintiff provided expert witness testimony suggesting that Posicor, manufactured by Defendant, was defectively designed and not properly tested prior to be placed on the market and sold.

    Issue.

    Whether design-defect claims brought against pharmaceutical manufacturers should be evaluated using risk- utility analysis.

    Held.

    Yes. The majority view is design-defect claims brought against pharmaceutical manufacturers are evaluated using risk-utility analysis. A pharmaceutical manufactured will not be subjected to strict liability for design defects when (1) the product is properly manufactured and has sufficient warnings, (2) the benefits of using the product allow for risks associated with using the product, and (3) there was no safer alternative available at the time of the manufacture of the drug. The trial court did not properly apply the above analysis before dismissing Plaintiff’s case. Plaintiff provided adequate expert testimony that Posicor was defective in its design and Defendant failed to properly test the drug for deficiencies before placing it on the market. Expert testimony was enough to create an issue fact concerning the defective design of Posicor. Further Defendant failed to show why it should be granted immunity from strict liability for design-defect. As a result, trial court incorrectly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

    Discussion.

    For claims of design-defect, the majority courts must evaluate the claim using risk-utility analysis.



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