Judge in Eastern Pa. transfers Paxil products liability case to federal court in Minnesota

By Jon Campisi | Aug 16, 2013

A federal judge in Philadelphia has granted a motion by drugmaker

GlaxoSmithKline to transfer a Paxil products liability case from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to the federal courthouse in Minnesota.

In an Aug. 14 memorandum, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle determined that transfer to Minnesota was appropriate because the plaintiffs reside in Minnesota and it will “clearly be less expensive for them to have this action tried near their home.

“The defendant, as a large corporation, does not bear a meaningfully heavier financial burden in one district versus another,” Bartle wrote.

The case involves Julie Guddeck, a mother who claims her ingestion of the antidepressant drug Paxil during pregnancy led to her daughter, Kaylea Guddeck, sustaining injuries.

The girl allegedly had a critical neural tube defect that required surgery, the plaintiff asserts in her complaint.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court and later removed to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, contains counts of negligence, breach of warranty and strict liability.

Defense attorneys subsequently filed a petition to move the litigation from Philadelphia to the federal court in Minnesota.

Bartle noted that while venue would be proper in both federal courts – the plaintiffs live in Minnesota while GSK is headquartered in the Philadelphia area – transfer to Minnesota is appropriate in this case because it would be more convenient for the parties as indicated by their physical and financial conditions.

The judge noted that Julie Guddeck was prescribed Paxil in Minnesota by a physician practicing in that state, the plaintiff ingested the drug there, and she became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter in Minnesota.

Bartle also pointed out that the plaintiffs would likely call as witnesses people who are based in Minnesota, and who might have a difficult time getting to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to testify in the case.

Those witnesses would also be “well out of the reach of this court’s subpoena power,” Bartle wrote.

“It is more practical to have the trial in Minnesota where both the plaintiffs and their physicians are located. It will be less expensive and easier than having the trial on the opposite side of the country in Pennsylvania,” the judicial memorandum states. “Minnesota not only has a strong interest in resolving the product liability claims of its own citizens but also is the site where the injuries took place as well as a majority of the relevant events or omissions.”

Bartle further wrote that the public factors favor transfer to Minnesota, and that regardless of what substantive law will apply in the case, “there is no doubt that a federal judge in Minnesota is fully capable of applying it.”

The record shows that GSK is being represented by attorneys Joseph E. O’Neil and Carolyn L. McCormack, of the Philadelphia firm Lavin O’Neil Ricci Cedrone & Disipio.

Those representing the plaintiffs include attorneys from Baum & Hedlund.

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