Judge transfers Paxil products liability claim to District Court in Louisiana

By Jon Campisi | Oct 19, 2012

A federal judge in Philadelphia has granted a motion by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to

transfer a Paxil products liability claim to the U.S. District Court in western Louisiana.

Cinda McLaughlin had sued the pharmaceutical manufacturer over injuries she allegedly sustained after ingesting the anti-depressant drug Paxil and its generic equivalent, paroxetine, which is made by Apotex Inc. and Cadila Healthcare, as well as Cadila’s parent company, Zydus Pharmaceuticals.

Those companies were also initially named as defendants in the litigation, but later dismissed from the lawsuit.

Background information on the case shows that the plaintiff underwent aortic and mitral valve replacement at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana back in June 2010.

Prior to her surgery, McLaughlin had been taking Paxil and paroxetine to treat her depression.

After her surgery, McLaughlin discovered that her aortic valve was thickened, court papers state.

McLaughlin also subsequently developed aortic insufficiency, mitral senosis and mitral insufficiency, as well as experienced several recurrent bouts of congestive heart failure with shortness of breath, something that required additional surgery.

McLaughlin, who alleges that her conditions were caused by her use of the drugs Paxil and paroxetine, filed suit against the various pharmaceutical defendants in June of this year, alleging counts of design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, breach of express warranty, negligence, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence per se, and unjust enrichment.

On Oct. 10, the plaintiff filed motions to voluntarily dismiss defendants Apotex, Cadila and Zydus.

In late August, GlaxoSmithKline had filed simultaneous motions to stay proceedings, to dismiss and to transfer venue.

McLaughlin filed an opposition to the motion to transfer on Sept. 21.

In an Oct. 17 order, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, wrote that transfer to the Western District of Louisiana is appropriate in this case since the plaintiff resides in that state, the alleged actions occurred within the Western District of Louisiana and the convenience of the parties and the witnesses, as well as the interests of justice, would be served by transferring the case to that federal venue.

“The Plaintiff in this case is domiciled in the Western District of Louisiana but decided to bring suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where [GlaxoSmithKline] has its principal place of business,” the court ruling states. “Additionally, many of the facts of this case – including Plaintiff’s ingestion of Paxil and Paroxetine – occurred in the Western District of Louisiana. Thus, while Plaintiff’s choice of forum is still granted some weight in the decision, it is lessened because she is not requesting a home forum or one in which a number of the operative facts in the case occurred.”

Buckwalter further wrote that while a defendant’s forum choice is, in general, given less weight than that of the plaintiff’s, in this specific case, the defendant’s preference for a Louisiana forum weighs in favor of a transfer.

Buckwalter also wrote that the “operative facts” highlighted in the case occurred in the Western District of Louisiana.

“This is where Plaintiff lived at all relevant times, and it is where she was prescribed and consumed both Paxil and paroxetine,” the judge wrote. “The medical treatment Plaintiff received before and after her ingestion of Paxil and paroxetine also occurred in Louisiana. As a result, this factor weighs heavily in favor of transfer.”

McLaughlin had argued that the defendant’s internal documents would be more easily obtained if the case played out in Pennsylvania, but Buckwalter wrote that any burden of producing the documents would be on GlaxoSmithKline, which didn’t oppose transfer on the basis that it is a global company and has presence throughout the country.

“The Court concludes that Louisiana is the most appropriate venue for this case,” Buckwalter wrote. “Although Plaintiff chose to bring suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and this Court recognizes the deference normally granted to Plaintiff’s choice, nearly every other private and public interest weighs in favor of transfer to the Western District of Louisiana.”

Buckwalter also dismissed all claims against Cadila Healthcare, Zydus Pharmaceuticals and Apotex without prejudice.

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