Adverse Event Reporting

It would seem to go without saying that for a defendant to be liable for the purported “common-law” claim of failure to report adverse events to the FDA, there must actually be some adverse events that needed to be reported.  One would think so, but certain California breast implant plaintiffs (yes, some still exist) would

If a court acknowledges that no state or federal appellate courts in the jurisdiction have addressed the question before it, we think at a minimum there also should be an acknowledgement of the Erie doctrine. Yet, in the case of Fogel v. Sorin Group USA, Inc., 2018 WL 4680022 (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 28, 2018) you

This post is from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog only.

We truly dislike decisions that find that claims of failure to report adverse events to the FDA are non-preempted, parallel violation failure to warn claims. Failure to report claims are not parallel.  Federal law does not require warnings to plaintiff or her doctors. 

We have blogged before about the Mirena IUD litigation. Cases alleging injuries from device migration and uterine perforation were centralized in an MDL in the Southern District of New York, but, as we reported here, summary judgment was granted for the defendants in all of those cases when Daubert motions disposed of the plaintiffs’

As we blogged at the time, we believe that the Ninth Circuit made a historic error in Stengel v. Medtronic Inc., 704 F.3d 1224 (9th Cir., 2013) (en banc), when it equated routine product liability inadequate warning claims with indirect third-party warning claims where the third party is a governmental agency – that is, the FDA.  Validating such allegations could have much broader implications – on everything from statements made to insurance regulators to child abuse reporting requirements – but, even limited to the FDA, it creates precisely the same perverse incentive “to submit a deluge of information that the [FDA] neither wants nor needs” that supported preemption of other tort claims challenging the accuracy/completeness of FDA submissions in Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs’ Legal Committee, 531 U.S. 341, 351 (2001). But the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Stengel, so life goes on.

To the extent that Stengel had any redeeming feature, it is found in the 7-judge concurrence (a majority opinion, really, since 11 judges were sitting for the en banc decision), which recognizes that causation is particularly problematic where a federal agency with preemptive power is a middle-man in state-law litigation:

Because they predicate their claim on [defendant’s] reporting duty to the FDA, as they must to avoid express preemption, [plaintiffs] face a causation hurdle that would not otherwise exist.  To prevail, they will ultimately have to prove that if [defendant] had properly reported the adverse events to the FDA as required under federal law, that information would have reached [the prescribing] doctors in time to prevent [plaintiffs’] injuries. But at this juncture − a request for leave to amend their complaint – [plaintiffs’] allegations of causation are adequate.

Stengel, 704 F.3d at 1234-35 (concurring opinion). Stengel cited to the causation theory described in Hughes v. Boston Scientific Corp., 631 F.3d 762 (5th Cir. 2011):

[Plaintiff’s] primary causation theory is that if [defendant] had reported the true number of injuries and malfunctions related to [the risk] caused by the [device], this information would have appeared on the FDA’s MAUDE internet database [of adverse events reported about medical devices] and in medical journals, and with this information [the prescriber] would not have recommended the [device] to [plaintiff] for treatment.

Id. at 776.


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Desperate to get around preemption, in PM medical device and generic drug cases, plaintiffs have been pushing disguised fraud on the FDA claims under the rubric of “negligent failure to report.”  Even though such claims facially challenge the adequacy of information that a regulated party submits to the FDA (a Buckman no-no), some courts have

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.  We were eagerly anticipating the Best in Show competition, which was slated to feature a Standard Poodle – the breed of our heart – along with a Portuguese Water Dog whose record of wins was unprecedented in dog show history.  Based on this past record, the “PWD” was heavily favored to “take the Garden.” The Best in Show judge (few assignments in dogdom carry more prestige) built the tension in the sold-out stadium to a fever pitch.  The dogs submitted to painstaking “hands on” examinations, they “free-stacked,” they gaited.   And they gaited again.  Finally, the judge, flanked by AKC officials, strode purposefully to the table to “sign the book,” then returned to the center of the ring, microphone turned on, purple and gold rosette and trophy in hand.   He made a moving speech about the history of the event, and he praised the lineup of seven gorgeous group winners.   Pausing one more time for effect, he announced, “Best in Show at the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is . . .  the Beagle!”  The Beagle? Make no mistake – “Miss P” is a spectacular show dog, with many Best in Show wins to her credit.  She is a striking example of her breed.  And she is very, very cute.   But it just wasn’t what we expected.

We also thought we knew what to expect when we began reading the recent decision of the Superior Court of New Jersey – Atlantic County — in the Accutane Multicounty Litigation. This litigation, in which plaintiffs allege that Isotretinoin (Accutane’s chemical name) causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease (“IBD”) and Crohn’s Disease (“CD”), has been pending since 2003, and we have been troubled, at times, about an apparent plaintiff bias. Appellate courts have agreed with us, overturning a number of plaintiffs’ verdicts. (See here and here, for example.)  But we were most pleasantly surprised this time.

In In re Accutane Litigation, 2015 WL 753674 (N. J. Super. Law. Feb. 20, 2015), the Court considered defendant’s motion to exclude plaintiffs’ general causation and biostatistics experts.  The Court explained that New Jersey applies a standard less stringent than Frye’s “general acceptance” standard, in determining whether expert testimony is admissible.  Under the guiding Rubanick decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court (125 N.J. 421 (1991)), “if the methodology by which the expert reached a conclusion is sound, the conclusion may be introduced into evidence.”  Accutane, 2015 WL 753674 at *4 (citation to Rubanick omitted).  Later, in Kemp v. The State of New Jersey,  174 N.J. 412 (2002), the Supreme Court held that the trial court was obligated to conduct an evidentiary hearing “any time an expert’s theory has not attained ‘general acceptance,’” and that the failure to do so is “plain error.” Accutane, 2015 WL 753674 at *6 (citations to Kemp omitted).  Hence the moniker “Kemp hearing” to describe hearings such as the one that was the subject of the Court’s decision.


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We saw the movie “Whiplash” last weekend.  In this Oscar contender, a drum student at a prestigious music conservatory seeks the approval of a harsh and punishing conductor, as well as a berth in the conductor’s competition jazz band.  The film is so tense and so consistently painful to watch that it would not be accurate to say that we “enjoyed” it, but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Early in the movie, the conductor demands that the student play several measures over and over and over again in a relentless and seemingly futile attempt to find the correct tempo. In today’s decision out of the Denture Cream MDL pending in the Southern District of Florida (thanks to David Walz at Carlton Fields for sending it to us)  Plaintiffs are back, beating the same drum, in a repeat attempt to surmount defendant Procter & Gamble’s (“P & G’s”) Daubert challenges to their general causation experts.  In re Denture Cream Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 09-2051-MD-Altonaga, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9653 (S.D. Fla. Jan.. 28, 2015).  In these cases, Plaintiffs allege that, with long-term use of Fixodent denture adhesive, the zinc in the product causes copper deficiency and, ultimately, a neurological condition known as copper deficiency myeloneuropathy (“CDM”).  In 2011, the court granted P & G’s Daubert motions to exclude Plaintiffs’ general causation experts. See In re Denture Cream Prods. Liab. Litig. (Chapman, et al. v. Procter & Gamble Distributing, LLC), 795 F. Supp. 2d 1345 (S.D. Fla. 2011), aff’d, 766 F.3d 1296 (11th Cir. 2014) (“Chapman’).  As we discussed at the time, the Court held, “[Plaintiffs’] theory is not ridiculous, but neither is it necessarily true; it is ripe for testing.  . . . [T]aking everything together, there is enough data in the scientific literature to hypothesize causation, but not to infer it.”  795 F. Supp. 2d at 1367 (emphasis in original).  This past September, as we reported here, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’ Chapman decision.


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