Sometimes it’s that simple. Melton v. Ortho-McNeil Pharm., Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78917, at *1-2 (N.D. Oh. June 10, 2014), is another Ortho Evra birth control patch case in which the plaintiff suffered a pulmonary embolism. The manufacturer’s label and one of its dear health care provider letters explicitly warned of this risk; “namely, increased risk of developing blood clots and pulmonary embolism as a result of Ortho Evra’s increased estrogen levels.” Id. at *11. The plaintiff’s prescribing doctor also knew of the risk. Id. at *1-2, *10-11. He read the label and the dear health care provider letter and knew that Ortho Evra “exposes users to sixty percent more estrogen over a thirty-five microgram estrogen pill and that it can double the risk of blood clots.” Id. at *11.
In other words, the warning said it, and the doctor knew it. There is no need for a jury in a case like this, nor a need to lower the lawsuit microscope to try to focus on granular details that are neither perceptible nor meaningful to the eye of the ordinary prescriber. Sometimes the doctor has adequate information to make a decision and, under the learned intermediary doctrine, a plaintiff simply can’t meet her burden of showing proximate causation:
If it is not a genuine issue that the prescribing physician was aware of the risks associated with the drug, then the manufacturer is entitled to summary judgment. The manner in which the physician becomes informed is irrelevant.
Id. at *10 (citing Koncz v. Burroughs Wellcome Co., No. 92 C 5797, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6014, at *7, 8 (N.D. Ill. May 6, 1994)). In short, the doctor knew it. The defendant manufacturer’s duty to warn runs to the prescribing doctor and, since that doctor knew the risk of the injury when he prescribed the drug, the causation chain is severed.
Under these particular facts, the manufacturer had a second, separate basis for summary judgment. It adequately warned. Regardless of whether the doctor had been aware of the risk, the manufacturer satisfied its duty to warn under the learned intermediary doctrine by providing an adequate warning in the Ortho Evra label:
Defendants’ warnings in the instant matter are adequate as a matter of law because they warned of the specific adverse effects suffered by Plaintiff and because they were part of an
FDA-approved package insert.
Id. at *12. In short, the warning said it. Now, certain of plaintiff’s non-failure to warn claims survived the court’s summary judgment decision. So the plaintiff’s case is still alive.
But the failure to warn claim is not. And it shouldn’t be. Sometimes it’s that simple.