Wagstaff & Cartmell Announces Alabama Federal Court Denies Motion to Dismiss PROZAC® Suit

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An Alabama federal court denied Eli Lilly and Company’s motion to dismiss a suit against it by Dana Fields, whose lawsuit claims taking the pharmaceutical company’s antidepressant PROZAC during her pregnancy caused her son to be born with a congenital heart defect. Fields is represented by the law firms of Reilly Pozner, Wagstaff & Cartmell, and Freese & Goss.

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While Dana’s son continues to undergo treatment for his complex heart defect, we are glad she enjoyed this small victory. We are looking forward to the further pursuit of these claims.

U.S. District Chief Judge Keith Watkins for the Middle District of Alabama recently denied defendant Eli Lilly and Company's (Lilly) motion to dismiss a suit against it by plaintiff Dana Fields, who claims taking the pharmaceutical company’s antidepressant PROZAC for eight months during her pregnancy caused her son to be born with a congenital heart defect.

Judge Watkins dismissed the motion based on a dispute over Fields' use of the antidepressant. Specifically, the court ruled Fields could still show “factual causation” that her late doctor would have prescribed a different medication if Lilly issued stronger warnings back in 1996.

Joseph Zonies and Mark Premo-Hopkins, partners at Reilly Pozner in Denver, Co. and Thomas P. Cartmell and Christopher L. Schnieders, partners at Wagstaff & Cartmell in Kansas City, Mo. represent the plaintiff, along with and Richard A. Freese, principal at Freese & Goss in Dallas, Texas.

“All of us are pleased that the court denied the motion to dismiss this case,” said Schnieders. “While Dana’s son continues to undergo treatment for his complex heart defect, we are glad she enjoyed this small victory. We are looking forward to the further pursuit of these claims.”

According to court documents, Fields is seeking monetary recovery from Lilly, the drug’s manufacturer, claiming that her son was born on Jan. 29, 1997 with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot (along with moderate pulmonary valve insufficiency) caused by her ingestion of the prescription drug PROZAC during the first eight months of her pregnancy. Tetralogy of Fallot is a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects that affect the structure of the heart and cause oxygen-deficient blood to flow into the body.

Fields’ action, filed in January 2013, focuses on Lilly’s alleged failure in 1996 to provide adequate warnings about the risks of PROZAC causing birth defects if used during pregnancy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Lilly’s marketing of the drug in 1987, according to court documents.

In the motion, Lilly argued that Fields could not support her claims with enough evidence that she actually took PROZAC during her pregnancy. Lilly also said in the motion that the only support of her claims is "self-serving" testimony from Fields, as well as her husband, that she took the medication. Lilly went on to point out in the motion that there was no evidence in her medical records or a “leftover pill bottle,” according to court documents.

However, in the order, Judge Watkins sided with Fields’ argument, saying “the testimony’s self-serving nature will not bar its consideration at the summary-judgment stage so long as the deponent (Mrs. Fields) and the declarant (Mr. Fields) are competent, the testimony is based on personal knowledge and the testimony contains facts that would be admissible at trial. These three prerequisites are met.”

Lilly also argued in the motion that Fields could not sufficiently support her claims against the company’s “failure to warn” because her doctor who prescribed the PROZAC died in 2009, four years before she filed her lawsuit. Therefore Lilly contested in the motion that without testimony from her doctor, she cannot show that he would have prescribed something different based on warnings from the drug manufacturer about possible birth defects.

Additionally, Fields presented “subjective evidence” about her doctor’s practices based on his nurse’s testimony in a deposition. Due to this testimony, and that the nurse had worked with the doctor for 12 years, Judge Watkins wrote in the order that Fields should continue pursuing her claims under this “subjective evidence standard.”

Wagstaff & Cartmell lawyers are often named to the plaintiffs’ leadership teams of the country’s largest drug and device cases in multi-district litigation (MDL).

In the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division

Case No. 2:13-CV-35-WKW [WO] - Memorandum Opinion and Order

Dana Fields, Individually and as Natural Parent of D.F., a Minor, Plaintiff
v. Eli Lilly and Company, Defendant

Contacts:

Joseph Zonies
Reilly Pozner
303-893-6110    
jzonies(at)rplaw(dot)com

Tom Cartmell
Wagstaff & Cartmell
816-701-1102
tcartmell(at)wcllp(dot)com

Christopher L. Schnieders
Wagstaff & Cartmell
816-701-1145
cschnieders(at)wcllp(dot)com

Mark Premo-Hopkins
Reilly Pozner
303-893-6110    
jzonies(at)rplaw(dot)com

Richard A. Freese
Freese & Goss
205-871-4144
rich(at)freeseandgoss(dot)com

MEDIA CONTACT:

Justin Scott
Scott Communications
816-809-3116
justin(at)scott-comms(dot)com

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Tom Cartmell

Justin Scott
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