Bartlett v. Mut. Pharm. Co., Inc., No. 10-2277 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff's doctor prescribed, for shoulder pain, sulindac, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory, under the brand-name Clinoril; her pharmacist dispensed generic sulindac. She developed a hypersensitivity reaction, toxic epidermal necrolysis, with which the outer skin layer on a patient's body has deteriorated, been burned off or turned into an open wound. Plaintiff spent 70 days at Massachusetts General Hospital, more than 50 in its burn unit, with 60-65 percent of her skin affected. Her "truly horrific" injuries include permanent near-blindness. Her claims against the manufacturer included breach of warranty, fraud, and negligence, and products liability claims: design defect, failure to warn, and manufacturing defect. By trial, the remaining theory of design defect was narrowed to a claim that sulindac's risks outweighed its benefits making it unreasonably dangerous to consumers, despite the FDA having never withdrawn its statutory "safe and effective" designation. A jury awarded $21.06 million in compensatory damages. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims including that the district court misunderstood New Hampshire law on design defect claims; that such claims as to generic drugs are preempted under federal law; that causation was not proved; and that damages were excessive and required a new trial. .
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on May 10, 2012.