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For readers noticing the new byline, let me introduce myself.  I am Susanna Moldoveanu, and I practice with Butler Snow LLP’s Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Healthcare group.  I am excited to join the Drug & Device Law Blogging Team.  The best group of legal wonks there is.

Today we discuss the Western District of Washington’s recent summary judgment order in Dearinger v. Eli Lilly & Co., 2023 WL 8717570 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 18, 2023).  A prior opinion in this case earned the top spot on the Blog’s Ten Best Prescription Drug/Medical Device Decisions of 2022.  This opinion is short and sweet, but a good one too.Continue Reading W.D. Wash. Nixes Failure to Warn Claim Under Learned Intermediary Doctrine

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As we have previously observed, limits on personal jurisdiction matter because the outcome of litigation is heavily influenced by where a case is filed. Since the Supreme Court confirmed the narrow confines of general jurisdiction in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915 (2011), and Daimler AG v. Bauman,

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A federal court has asked the supreme court of Washington to address the scope of that state’s learned-intermediary doctrine. In particular, it has asked whether Washington recognizes a “direct-to-consumer” exception to the doctrine.

Under the learned-intermediary doctrine, which has been adopted by every state other than West Virginia, a manufacturer of a prescription medical product

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

This blogger is just returned from Ireland where we toured castles and abbeys, drove through amazing landscapes on tiny roads with hairpin turns (can’t say enough about Connemara except that everyone should go), sang about Molly Malone and the Fields of Athenry, visited a

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Our first stint in a law firm was on the transactional side.  Yes, it sounds crazy even to us, but we spent our first 18 months in the profession pulling all-nighters on triple-tier financings of leveraged buyouts, doing clueless due diligence in far-flung back-offices, drafting trust indentures, ‘slugging’ at the printers, and collecting acrylic cubes

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A hospital? What is it? It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now. Airplane, 1980. It’s also a big building filled with doctors and that is important right now. Those doctors are learned intermediaries between prescription drug and device manufacturers and the patients. A manufacturer’s duty to warn runs to the doctor and it then becomes the doctor’s responsibility to use his/her medical expertise to counsel his/her patient and advise the patient of the risks of the recommended treatment, therapy, drug, device, etc. This is drug and device products liability law 101.

Well, now in Washington, device manufacturers (not sure how this will impact prescription drugs) have another duty to warn – the duty to warn the hospital that purchased the device. See Taylor v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc., 2017 Wash. LEXIS 200 (Wash. S.Ct. Feb. 9, 2017). In a bizarre decision, the Washington Supreme Court creates what we believe is a unique, separate duty by device manufacturers to provide warnings to a hospital. Nowhere in the opinion does the court cite any precedent for this alternative warning claim, because there isn’t any. They also hold that the learned intermediary doctrine does not apply to this unprecedented duty. And then the court also refused to apply a negligence standard to plaintiff’s traditional failure to warn claim under comment k. Surely you can’t be serious. I am serious . . . and don’t call me Shirley.

The device at issue in Taylor was a robotic surgical device used for laparoscopic surgeries, including prostatectomies such as the one performed on plaintiff. Id. at *3. It is a complex medical device for which the manufacturer requires surgeons undergo training, including performing at least two proctored surgeries before being credentialed to use the system and recommends surgeons choose “simple cases” for their initial unproctored procedures. Id. at *4-5. The manufacturer also specifically warned surgeons not to use the device for prostatectomies on obese patients or on patients who had undergone prior lower abdominal surgeries and advised that the patient should be in a steep head down position during the procedure. Plaintiff Taylor was the first unproctored procedure for his surgeon and his surgeon opted to use the device despite plaintiff being obese and having had prior abdominal surgery. The surgeon also did not place plaintiff in the downward position due to his weight. Id. at *5-6. Plaintiff’s surgeon conceded plaintiff was not an optimal candidate for using the device. Id. at *6.

Plaintiff brought suit against the surgeon, the hospital, and the manufacturer, then settled with the surgeon and hospital before trial. At trial against the manufacturer, the jury found the manufacturer was not negligent in providing warnings to the surgeon. Id. at *7-8. As noted above, the warnings seem detailed and clear. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in not instructing the jury that the manufacturer had a duty to warn the purchasing hospital and erred in applying a negligence standard to the failure to warn claim.Continue Reading Washington State Creates Device Manufacturer Duty to Warn Hospitals

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A lot of companies rely on retired and otherwise former employees for information in litigation – including product liability litigation. Particularly where a product (such as a drug that’s now gone generic) has a long history, they are often the best source of knowledge about what happened years ago.  In dealing with ex-employees, however, defendants must keep in mind that, for purposes of the attorney/client privilege, discussions with ex-employees are subject to being treated much differently (and less protectively) than corporate communications with current employees.

The recent case, Newman v. Highland School District No. 203, 381 P.3d 1188 (Wash. 2016), although not involving prescription medical products, or even product liability, is a cautionary tale.  The defendant in Newman was a governmental entity, a school district.  The plaintiff alleged that he suffered a brain injury playing high school football, and that the injury occurred because the plaintiff was allegedly allowed to play in a game the day after suffering a concussion in practice.

The plaintiff in Newman didn’t sue until some three years after the injury. Id. at 1189-90.  By then, most of the coaching staff had turned over, and the individuals with the best knowledge of what had happened were employed elsewhere.  The school district’s litigation counsel contacted the ex-coaches and when they were deposed, claimed to represent them.  Id. at 1190.  Plaintiff challenged that representation as a conflict of interest and “sought discovery concerning communications between [the defendant] and the former coaches.”  Id.  The defendant resisted discovery with a claim of attorney/client privilege, and plaintiff opposed.  The defendant lost, and appealed denial of its motion for a protective order.  Id.Continue Reading A Reminder To Be Careful With Ex-Employees And Confidential Information