State ex rel. Johnson & Johnson Corp. v. Karl

220 W. Va. 463, 647 S.E.2d 899 (2007)

 

RULE:

Under West Virginia products liability law, manufacturers of prescription drugs are subject to the same duty to warn consumers about the risks of their products as other manufacturers. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia declines to adopt the learned intermediary exception to this general rule.

FACTS:

The circuit court in the products liability action filed by the estate of a patient who died after using the manufacturer's drug declined to adopt the learned intermediary doctrine and denied the manufacturer's motion in limine to exclude evidence of its duty to warn the patient personally. Petitioner drug manufacturer requested a writ of prohibition, pursuant to W. Va. Code § 53-1-1, to prevent the enforcement of an order by respondent circuit court, which refused to apply the learned intermediary doctrine and denied the manufacturer's motion in limine to exclude respondent estate's evidence or argument in a products liability action that the manufacturer had a duty to provide warnings personally to the decedent patient.

ISSUE:

Did the circuit court err in refusing to apply the learned intermediary doctrine exception to the general rule that prescription drug manufacturers were subject to the same duty to warn consumers about the risks of their products as other manufacturers?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The court found no grounds upon which to grant a writ of prohibition against the enforcement of the circuit court's order. The court agreed with the circuit court's conclusions that West Virginia law permitted the full development of the claims and defenses as to the adequacy and method of communicating warnings without adopting the learned intermediary doctrine. The court, in light of the current state of the prescription drug industry and physician/patient relationships, including the intense proliferation of direct-to-consumer advertising and the development of the Internet as a common method of dispensing and obtaining drug information, declined to adopt the learned intermediary exception to the general rule that prescription drug manufacturers were subject to the same duty to warn consumers about the risks of their products as other manufacturers.

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