A product defect claim based on insufficient warnings cannot survive summary judgment if stronger warnings would not have altered the conduct of the prescribing physician.
A widow claimed that her husband suffered from an adverse reaction to an antidepressant drug, which caused him to commit suicide. She argued that the drug's manufacturer was liable because it did not provide adequate warnings to doctors of alleged side effects associated with the drug. She filed suit against them for damages. The district court granted the drug manufacturer's motion for summary judgment, holding that the widow failed to establish a sufficient causal link between her husband's suicide and it's conduct. The case was appealed.
Was the widow able to establish her claim against the drug manufacturer?
The court agreed with the district court that even if the manufacturer's warnings concerning the drug and suicide were deficient, the widow failed to establish that the allegedly inadequate warnings contributed to her husband's suicide. The widow acknowledged that the manufacturer was obligated to warn doctors, not patients, of potential side-effects associated with its pharmaceutical products, and conceded that the doctor who prescribed drug to her husband failed to read the manufacturer's published warnings before prescribing the drug. Because the doctor testified that he did not read the warning label that accompanied the drug or rely on information provided by the manufacturer's detail men before prescribing the drug to the widow's husband, the adequacy of the warnings was irrelevant to the disposition of the case. Thus,the widow failed to establish proof that a stronger warning would have changed her husband's medical treatment or averted his suicide.