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Nancy Cochran v. Wyeth

July 27, 2010

NANCY COCHRAN,
APPELLANT
v.
WYETH, INC.,
APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order entered September 4, 2008, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Civil, at No. 000275,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Allen, J.:

:

August Term 2004

BEFORE: STEVENS, GANTMAN and ALLEN, JJ.

OPINION BY

¶ 1 In this failure to warn case, we are asked to decide whether a plaintiff can prove proximate causation where a drug manufacturer's warning disclosed a risk of injury, the plaintiff sustained that very injury, but the manufacturer failed to disclose another risk of injury which the plaintiff did not sustain. We hold that in these circumstances, a plaintiff cannot prove proximate causation because the non-disclosed risk did not materialize in physical injury.

¶ 2 Nancy Cochran ("Appellant") appeals from the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Wyeth, Inc. ("Wyeth"). We affirm.

¶ 3 The facts relevant to our disposition are not in dispute and are as follows. From November 1996 to August 1997, Appellant ingested the prescription weight-loss drug dexfenfluramine, which was manufactured by Wyeth and sold under the brand name Redux. Dr. Stephen Anthay, M.D., was the physician who prescribed Redux to Appellant. Wyeth informed Dr. Anthay that Redux may cause primary pulmonary hypertension ("PPH"). Dr. Anthay warned Appellant of the risk of PPH prior to prescribing her Redux. At the time of his decision, however, Dr. Anthay was unaware of the risk that Redux may cause valvular heart disease ("VHD"). In April 2004, Appellant was diagnosed with PPH.

¶ 4 On August 3, 2004, Appellant filed a complaint against Wyeth, asserting that the warnings accompanying Redux were inadequate. Following discovery, on July 28, 2008, Wyeth filed a motion for summary judgment. In this motion, Wyeth claimed that its warnings were sufficient because they informed Dr. Anthay that PPH was a risk of ingesting Redux and Appellant was diagnosed with PPH.

¶ 5 In opposition, Appellant argued that Redux's warnings were faulty because they failed to warn of the danger of VHD. Appellant contended that as early as 1994, Wyeth had reason to suspect that Redux could cause VHD. According to Appellant, Wyeth misrepresented the amount of reports of VHD incidents to the FDA, and failed to alert the medical community of the risk of VHD. Appellant submitted that Dr. Anthay would not have prescribed Redux to her had he been warned that Redux could cause VHD.

¶ 6 In July 2007, the FDA requested Wyeth to issue "black box" warnings detailing the risk of VHD. In September 2007, Wyeth voluntarily withdrew Redux from the market.

¶ 7 On September 4, 2009, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Wyeth. The trial court concluded that Wyeth's warnings with regard to PPH were adequate on the basis that Wyeth informed Dr. Anthay that Redux may cause PPH. The trial court further concluded that because Appellant suffered from PPH and not VHD, she could not establish that Wyeth's failure to warn of the risk of VHD was the proximate cause of her particular injury. This appeal ensued.

¶ 8 Appellant raises the following issue for review: Did the trial court err as a matter of law in granting summary judgment in Wyeth's favor on the issue of proximate causation, where a reasonable jury could easily find based on the evidence of record that [Appellant] would not have sustained serious injuries as a result of ingesting Wyeth's medication had Wyeth provided adequate warnings to [Appellant's] prescribing physician of the actual risks inherent in ingesting that product? Brief for Appellant at 3.

ΒΆ 9 We review a grant of summary judgment under the following well- settled standards: Pennsylvania law provides that summary judgment may be granted only in those cases in which the record clearly shows that no genuine issues of material fact exist and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The moving party has the burden of proving that no genuine issues of material fact exist. In determining whether to grant summary judgment, the trial court must view the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact against the moving party. Thus, summary judgment is proper only when the uncontraverted allegations in the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions of record, and submitted affidavits demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists, and that the moving party is entitled to ...


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