Supreme Court Determines that Learned Intermediary Doctrine Does Not Bar Suit by Plaintiff in Pharmaceutical Error Case

The Supreme Court of Arizona recently released its opinion in a consumer fraud and product liability case brought by a young woman who was diagnosed with drug-induced lupus after taking an acne medication. The young woman was prescribed a specific medication to treat her acne. She did not receive the full packet of information about the drug but did receive some information. The woman used the product for about four months, and then two years later she took it once again for about another four months. Shortly after being prescribed the medication for the second time, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with drug-induced lupus and hepatitis. Evidently, both of these conditions are a side effect from using the medication.

medication-1329267The young woman brought a lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages, claiming that the pharmaceutical company misrepresented and omitted certain important facts in the information it provided to her. The defendants moved to dismiss the case under the “learned intermediary doctrine,” and the lower court agreed to do so.

However, on appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona reversed that decision. The Supreme Court held that the learned intermediary doctrine does not prevent the plaintiff from suing the company, and the plaintiff alleged enough facts to survive a motion to dismiss.

The History and Prevalence of the Learned Intermediary Doctrine in New Mexico

Generally, manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceutical prescription drugs have the duty to warn end-users about the risks of using their medication. However, the learned intermediary doctrine is a long-standing exception to this rule. This rule was designed to protect pharmaceutical companies from product liability lawsuits.

The rule exonerates the pharmaceutical company as long as the company warned the prescribing doctor about the risks, even if they did not warn the patient directly. The original rationale behind this rule was that doctors are in a better position to warn patients about which risks pertain to their specific situation. However, as time has progressed, the courts looked down on this paternalistic view and have been less apt to grant motions to dismiss under this theory. Plaintiffs have argued, and Courts have agreed, that with the age of the internet and with people often self-diagnosing conditions, it is important that not only doctors warn them about side effects but also companies have a duty to warn them.

In 2008, a Federal District Court in New Mexico refused to apply the learned intermediary doctrine in a product liability case. They did this even though the courts had been applying this doctrine for the past three decades. However, even though the reach of this doctrine has lessened, there is no doubt that certain courts still adhere to its tenets in some situations.

Have You Been Injured Because of Unknown Side Effects to a Medication?

Although the trajectory of this doctrine seems to be shifting, it is still a valid and upheld law in New Mexico, and as a result it is important that you have an attorney represent you in these sorts of cases. When a consumer brings a product liability claim against a drug company, it is likely that the company will use a learned intermediary defense. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in thwarting this defense and seeking the compensation you deserve. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Court Hears Appeal Following Denial of Expert Testimony, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016.

Tenth Circuit Upholds Validity of Liability Waiver After Rafting Accident, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 20, 2016.