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In re Prempro Products Liability Litigation

July 11, 2006

IN RE: PREMPRO PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION
LINDA REEVES PLAINTIFF
v.
WYETH, ET. AL. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

MDL Docket No. 4:03CV1507-WRW

ORDER

Pending is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment re: the Learned Intermediary/ Proximate Causation (Doc. No. 54). Plaintiff has responded and Defendant has replied.*fn1 Also pending is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment re: Specific Claims (Doc. No. 61). Plaintiff has responded and Defendant has replied.*fn2

The parties presented oral arguments on June 22-23, 2006. Supplemental briefs on the learned intermediary issue were also filed.*fn3

Additionally, Defendant's filed a Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment on the Statute of Limitations (Doc. No. 162).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff took prescription hormone replacement therapy ("HRT") because she was at high risk for osteoporosis.*fn4 Plaintiff alleges that ingestion of HRT medications caused her to develop breast cancer. Plaintiff asserts negligence,*fn5 design defect, fraud, and failure to warn.*fn6

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact, so that the dispute may be decided on purely legal grounds.*fn7 The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for a trial -- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.*fn8 The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has cautioned that summary judgment is an extreme remedy that should only be granted when the movant has established a right to the judgment beyond controversy.*fn9 Nevertheless, summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing trial when no genuine issue of fact remains.*fn10 I must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.*fn11 The Eighth Circuit has also set out the burden of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion:

[T]he burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e.,"[to point] out to the District Court," that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and, if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted.*fn12

Only disputes over facts that may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.*fn13

III. DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: THE LEARNED INTERMEDIARY/ PROXIMATE CAUSATION

A manufacturer's duty to warn generally extends to the ultimate user of a product; however, the learned intermediary doctrine is an exception to this rule.*fn14 The learned intermediary doctrine "provides that a drug manufacturer may rely on the prescribing physician to warn the ultimate consumer of the risks of a prescription drug [because] [t]he physician acts as the 'learned intermediary' between the manufacturer and the ultimate consumer."*fn15 Therefore, if an adequate warning is provided to the prescribing physician, the manufacturer is relieved of its duty to warn the patient, regardless of what the physician communicated to the patient. In circumstances where a manufacturer fails to adequately warn the physician, the ...


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