Articles Tagged with causation

Published on:

Causation is usually simple: this happened because of that. The wheel fell off my bicycle, causing me to fall and break my arm. Legal causation is not so simple, and it can be very difficult to prove in a civil case. Legal causation or “proximate cause” involves an event (or thing) which is sufficiently related to an injury such that the cause of the event or thing is held legally liable for injuries sustained. It may not sound all that complicated, but millions of attorney hours are spent each year fighting over proximate cause. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons we have courthouses.

Young man Risperdal gynecomastia

Of all the bad drug results you read about, you would think proving legal causation in a Risperdal case would be straightforward: a boy with autism or psychological issues is prescribed Risperdal; after a period of months or years on the drug, he begins to grow female breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. Boys should not grow female breasts. It is extremely rare for an adolescent boy not taking Risperdal to grow female breasts. And studies have shown that Risperdal can cause gynecomastia. Ergo (sorry, I’ve been wanting to get that word in a post), if a boy is taking Risperdal, and fifteen months later grows female breasts, it should follow that the Risperdal caused the gynecomastia. And that the manufacturers of the drug should pay for the physical injury, the emotional trauma, and any other suffering.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Two recent court cases involving boys injured after taking Risperdal yielded two very different results, and the takeaway is the importance of medical experts who can testify to the connection of the injury (gynecomastia) to the cause (taking Risperdal).

Continue reading →

Published on:

Zimmer NexGen Knee Replacement Surgery

Without question, the Zimmer NexGen Knee MDL is not going all that well for plaintiffs lately. The first bellwether trial ended in a defense verdict in favor of Zimmer. Then Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer issued a Lone Pine Order which imposed a heavier burden on plaintiffs to avoid dismissal of their cases. That Order requires each plaintiff to file an Expert Declarations form establishing that the case meets all the latest requirements to warrant its continued place in the litigation. These requirements include a showing of (1) evidence of loosening of the artificial knee, (2) evidence of knee flexion of 120 degrees, (3) other detailed designations of injury and product failure. You can read more about the Lone Pine Order here.

Then, on October 21, 2016, Judge Pallmeyer ruled that the second bellwether case did not warrant a jury trial. In her Order, she granted summary judgment for Zimmer. You can read about that court decision here, but in a nutshell, Judge Pallmeyer simply rejected the validity of the plaintiff’s key expert witness. She concluded that Dr. Joseph Fetto failed to refer to scientific literature or to “give any explanation for why the implant design, and asymmetric loading generally, causes . . . loosening.” (Order, p. 12) She wrote at length about the reasons why Dr. Fetto’s testimony is unreliable, ultimately concluding that Dr. Fetto has not “given the court sufficient basis to conclude that his opinion is reliable.” (Order, p. 17) Without a reliable expert witness, a plaintiff cannot win a product liability case.

The Judge’s Order was a sledgehammer, but . . .

It’s Not All Bad News

It’s quite awful to select a bellwether case, prepare it for trial, and then, days before jury selection, the judge grants summary judgment on all claims in favor of defendants. After years of litigation, the plaintiff, who was clearly injured, was out of court without compensation. Still, there is reason to believe that future cases may have different results. Judge Pallmeyer admitted as much in the last section of her 43-page order, titled “Potential Differences Between Joas’s Case and Others in the MDL.” Let’s examine a few keys statements in the part of her Order (the italicized statements below were written by Judge Pallmeyer):

Continue reading →