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Matter of Neurontin Prod. Liab. Litig.

Supreme Court of New York, New York County

May 15, 2009, Decided

117852/04

Opinion

Marcy S. Friedman, J.

Plaintiffs in this mass tort litigation seek damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained as a result of defendants' wrongful marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (generically known as gabapentin) for off-label uses such as the treatment of bipolar disorder. Plaintiffs plead products liability causes of action alleging that Neurontin caused plaintiffs or their decedents to undergo suicide-related events, including suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide. Defendants Pfizer Inc., Warner-Lambert Company LLC, Parke-Davis, a division of Warner-Lambert Company, and Warner-Lambert Company (collectively "Pfizer") move to preclude the testimony of plaintiffs' experts on the issue of general causation -- that is, the issue of whether Neurontin is capable of causing suicide-related injuries.

This court set the motion down for a Frye hearing which was held jointly with a Daubert hearing ordered by United States District Judge  [***2] Patti B. Saris in the Neurontin federal Multi-District Litigation ("MDL"). The federal court has issued an exhaustive opinion denying defendants' motion to preclude. (In Re Neurontin Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, US Dist Ct, D Mass, 04-10981-PBS, 612 F. Supp. 2d 116, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60389 [Saris, J.], May 5, 2009) ("federal opinion"). This court adopts the federal court's analysis of and findings on the reliability of plaintiffs' methodology and conclusions on the issue of general causation. 1 The detailed analysis and findings will not be repeated here. Rather, this opinion will address the Frye standard applicable to determination of defendants' motion in the state cases, and this court's reasons for holding, as it now does, that defendants' motion to preclude should be denied under that standard.

In both state and federal products liability actions involving exposure to an allegedly harmful substance, the plaintiff must prove both "general causation" -- i.e., "that the toxin [or other chemical] is capable of causing the particular illness," and "specific causation" -- i.e., that the exposure was sufficient to cause the particular plaintiff's illness. (See Parker v Mobil Oil Corp., 7 NY3d 434, 448, 857 N.E.2d 1114, 824 N.Y.S.2d 584 [2006], rearg denied 8 N.Y.3d 828, 861 N.E.2d 104, 828 N.Y.S.2d 289 [2007], citing McClain v Metabolife Intl., Inc., 401 F3d 1233, 1241 [11th Cir 2005].) It is well settled that "[t]he introduction of novel scientific evidence calls for a determination  [***4] of its reliability." (Parker, 7 NY3d at 446.) New York courts continue to adhere to the Frye standard in making this determination (id. at 447 n 3), while federal courts apply the Daubert standard. Under both standards, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the admissibility of the expert evidence on general causation. (See Fraser v 301-52 Townhouse Corp., 57 AD3d 416, 870 N.Y.S.2d 266 [1st Dept 2008].)

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24 Misc. 3d 1215(A) *; 897 N.Y.S.2d 671 **; 2009 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1777 ***; 2009 NY Slip Op 51459(U) ****; 241 N.Y.L.J. 113

 [****1]  In the Matter of Neurontin Product Liability Litigation Joshua Delaney, Plaintiff, against Pfizer Inc., PARKE-DAVIS, a division of Warner-Lambert Company and Warner-Lambert Company LLC, WARNER-LAMBERT COMPANY and WARNER-LAMBERT COMPANY LLC, Defendants.

Notice: THIS OPINION IS UNCORRECTED AND WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED IN THE PRINTED OFFICIAL REPORTS.

PUBLISHED IN TABLE FORMAT IN THE NEW YORK SUPPLEMENT.

Prior History: In re Neurontin Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., 342 F. Supp. 2d 1350, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21778 (J.P.M.L., Oct. 26, 2004)

CORE TERMS

causation, gabapentin, studies, reliability, suicidality, methodology, scientific, drugs, antiepileptic, epidemiological, plaintiffs', expert opinion, defendants', monoamine, disease, cases, novel, general acceptance, courts, scientific evidence, causal, scientific community, suicide-related, decreases, statistically, biological, clinical, exposure, patients, peer