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Smith v. Pfizer Inc.

United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 30, 2010, Decided; April 30, 2010, Filed

Case No. 3:05-0444



Among the numerous motions in limine pending before the court are five motions in limine filed by the defendants (Docket Nos. 101, 104, 109, 121, and 124). These motions have been fully briefed, and the court's findings are discussed below.


On May 13, 2004, 79-year-old Richard Smith ("Smith") committed suicide. Two months earlier, Smith had filled a prescription for the medication Neurontin, which is manufactured by defendants Pfizer Inc. and Warner-Lambert Co. LLC (collectively, "Pfizer" or "defendants"). Smith's doctor prescribed Neurontin to treat his neuropathic pain, which is an off-label use of the drug. Smith's widow, plaintiff Ruth Smith, alleges that Smith's ingestion of Neurontin caused his suicide. The plaintiff also alleges that, since the early 1990s, the defendants have aggressively marketed Neurontin for off-label use.

Further background can be found in the court's recently filed Memorandum addressing several other motions in limine filed by the parties. (Docket No. 191 at 2-3.)


The parties have filed numerous  [*3] motions in limine. This Memorandum will address five of these motions.

I. The Defendants' Motion to Exclude Evidence of and References to Warner-Lambert Co. LLC's Guilty Plea or any Related Government Investigations or Agreements (Docket No. 124)

The defendants argue that the court should exclude any reference to the fact that Warner-Lambert Co. LLC pleaded guilty to certain instances of marketing Neurontin for off-label uses. This motion will be denied.

In May 2004, Warner-Lambert pleaded guilty to felony counts of illegally promoting Neurontin for off-label use and illegally failing to label Neurontin with directions for such off-label use. In its guilty plea, Warner-Lambert admitted the truth of the facts set forth in the criminal Information that was attached to the plea. (Docket No. 183, Ex. 2 at 1.) The Information listed specific examples of Warner-Lambert's efforts to market the drug in 1995 and 1996, including its promotion of Neurontin for pain treatment at a consultant meeting, (Docket No. 126, Ex. 1 PP 25-26), and its promotion of off-label use during a series of teleconferences with doctors. (Id. PP 33-35.)

The defendants argue that the guilty plea is irrelevant to the plaintiff's  [*4] claims. But the plea -- or, more specifically, Warner-Lambert's admission of the facts listed in the Information 1 -- is highly relevant for the same reasons that other evidence of the defendants' marketing campaigns is relevant. (See Docket No 191 at 12-14.) This is particularly true because, as the defendants themselves highlight, "Warner-Lambert denied, and Pfizer continues to deny, the existence of any intentional nationwide scheme to promote Neurontin for off-label use." (Docket No. 125 at 3.) The plea serves as an admission that Warner-Lambert engaged in the off-label marketing activity outlined in the Information.

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2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42481 *; 2010 WL 1754443

RUTH SMITH, Individually and as Widow for the Use and Benefit of Herself and the Next of Kin of RICHARD SMITH, Deceased, Plaintiff, v. PFIZER INC., et al., Defendants.

Subsequent History: Objection granted by, Objection denied by Smith v. Pfizer Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47698 (M.D. Tenn., May 14, 2010)

Prior History: Smith v. Pfizer, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42243 (M.D. Tenn., Apr. 29, 2010)


defendants', off-label, label, exclude evidence, adverse event, guilty plea, inadmissible, patient, spouse, marketing, suicide, motive, promotion, hearsay, reasons, notice, loss of consortium, motion in limine, punitive damages, deposition, Anecdotal, causation, warnings, damages, harmed