Seroquel Lawsuits: Followup to Summary Judgment Ruling in Florida
Last Wednesday, I reported on the Seroquel summary judgment in Florida in the much awaited first Seroquel MDL. The opinion appeared to give AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals a boost (although there are a thousand variables that are involved in the 1% rise in the stock price – the Seroquel lawsuits are a small piece of the large mosaic that is a major pharmaceutical company) and depress not only Seroquel litigants and their lawyers, but also plaintiffs’ lawyers in drug and medical device litigation, who have had a tough year.
But after reading the order granting the summary judgment in this Seroquel case, the reports of the demise of the Seroquel litigation were greatly exaggerated. This case was decided on its particular facts, and the fact pattern in this case was not advantageous for Seroquel lawyers.
First, the plaintiff, a legal secretary, was a paranoid schizophrenic. Not a good start; the best Seroquel cases are going to be off label prescriptions for patients with a less serious condition. More importantly, while plaintiff’s expert offered the general opinion that the plaintiff’s diabetes was linked to Seroquel, she really did not - at least arguably - offer the supporting testimony required to offer the opinion. For example, she knew of no method to determine whether Plaintiff’s use of Seroquel was the cause of her weight gain “as opposed to being just a normal weight gain and weight-loss cycle that [plaintiff] experienced over a long period of her life.” Plaintiff’s expert – the sole expert on specific causation offered – also conceded that if “someone has a major weight gain before taking Seroquel” as plaintiff did – she did not know if the weight gain was caused by Seroquel. Specifically, the expert testified that “the point in time where [plaintiff] developed diabetes could have been related to the addition of Seroquel” but it was “hard to know for sure.” To top it all off, the Seroquel expert testified that it was more likely than not that the plaintiff would have developed diabetes without the Seroquel.
I’m not sure exactly what Plaintiff’s lawyer’s argument was in refuting summary judgment. Sometimes, judges do not fairly articulate the losing party’s arguments in an opinion granting summary judgment. Still, it appears this was not a strong case for the Seroquel plaintiffs, a point the judge alluded to in the last paragraph of the opinion:
The Court stresses that the ruling herein is strictly confined to the application of Florida law to the specific facts of [plaintiff’s] case:
Other cases presenting potentially distinguishable facts or which arise under other states laws may fair differently. Accordingly, this opinion is in no way intended to prevent a full and fair evaluation of the specific facts of each of the other [Seroquel] cases involved in this litigation.
So, while there is no denying this is a psychological blow to Seroquel plaintiffs, in the big picture of things, it is still early in the first quarter and I’m not sure the victims’ team has even had possession of the ball.