Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Drugs & Biotech
by
Several entities that owned or operated hospitals in Alabama ("plaintiffs") filed suit against manufacturers of prescription opioid medications, distributors of those medications, and retail pharmacies ("defendants"), alleging that defendants' marketing or selling of the medications resulted in an epidemic of opioid abuse in Alabama. Plaintiffs sought to recover unreimbursed medical expenses incurred in treating individuals with opioid-related medical conditions. Among other theories of liability, plaintiffs asserted that defendants had created a public nuisance in the form of the epidemic. The trial court entered a case-management order directing the parties to try each of plaintiffs' causes of action separately. The public-nuisance claim was to be tried first and is itself to be bifurcated into two separate trials. The first trial on the public-nuisance claim was to involve "liability," and the second trial was to involve "special damage." Defendants, asserting that the trial court had erred in bifurcating the public-nuisance claim, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate the relevant portion of the case-management order. The Supreme Court granted the writ: "conducting a trial on the issue of the defendants' 'liability' for a public nuisance and a second trial on 'special damage' neither avoids prejudice nor furthers convenience, expedition, or economy. We can only conclude that the trial court exceeded its discretion. We therefore grant the defendants' petition and issue a writ of mandamus." View "Ex parte Endo Health Solutions Inc. et al." on Justia Law

by
Abbott Laboratories and Abbott Laboratories, Inc. (collectively, "Abbott"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Mobile Circuit Court to dismiss all claims asserted by the Mobile County Board of Health and the Family Oriented Primary Health Care Clinic (collectively, "Mobile Health") against Abbott on the basis that those claims are barred by the rule of repose or by the applicable statute of limitations. Mobile Health alleged that Abbott had participated in the marketing of a specific prescription drug, OxyContin. Mobile Health alleged that this marketing campaign "precipitated" an "opioid crisis" in the United States, and specifically in Alabama, because it caused an astronomical increase in the use of opioids by patients who quickly became dependent upon the drugs. Mobile Health asserted that it brought this action because of the burdens it had to bear as a result of the "opioid epidemic." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the applicable statutes of limitations barred Mobile Health's claims against Abbott. Therefore, the Court granted Abbott's petition for a writ of mandamus, and directed the circuit court to enter an order dismissing Mobile Health's claims against Abbott. View "Ex parte Abbott Laboratories and Abbott Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Johnson & Johnson and other pharmaceutical defendants sought mandamus relief from an Alabama circuit court order that refused to transfer venue of the underlying lawsuit to the Jefferson County, Alabama circuit court, on grounds that venue in Conecuh County was not proper as to all plaintiffs, or alternatively, on the basis that convenience of the parties and/or the interest of justice required it. In 2019, the plaintiffs filed a complaint at the Conecuh Circuit Court against numerous defendants that, they averred, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and/or dispensed opioid medications throughout Alabama in a manner that was misleading, unsafe, and resulted in drug addiction, injury, and/or death to Alabama citizens. The complaint asserted claims of negligence, nuisance, unjust enrichment, fraud and deceit, wantonness, and civil conspiracy. The manufacturer defendants moved to transfer the case to Jefferson County, reasoning that because 8 of the 17 plaintiffs either had a place of business in Jefferson County or operated hospitals in Jefferson County or adjacent counties, logic dictated that a large percentage of the witnesses for those plaintiffs (i.e., prescribing doctors, hospital administrators, etc.) and their evidence were located in or around Jefferson County. After a review of the circuit court record, the Alabama Supreme Court determined defendants did not demonstrate a clear, legal right to transfer the underlying case from Conecuh to Jefferson County. Therefore, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Johnson & Johnson et al." on Justia Law

by
Forest Laboratories, LLC ("Forest"), filed a permissive appeal pursuant to Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., of an Alabama circuit court's order denying it summary judgment. Forest manufactured and marketed Lexapro, a drug prescribed for depression, and Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ("FPI") sold and distributed Lexapro. In 2015, Elias Joubran's physician prescribed Lexapro for Elias's depression. Elias's prescription was filled with generic escitalopram that was manufactured and sold by a company other than Forest. On December 30, 2015, Elias entered the house belonging to him and his wife, Sheila Joubran; he shot and killed Sheila, then shot and killed himself. Kevin Feheley, Sr., serving as personal representative of Shiela's estate, sued Mary Jourbran in her capacity as the personal representative of Elias's estate. Forest, FPI and several fictitiously named defendants were included in the suit. The complaint alleged that, at the time of the murder/suicide, Elias was under prescription for pharmaceuticals manufactured by defendants, including Forest and FPI, and that "Forest's Lexapro[] enhanced, enabled and aggravated [Elias's] depression and violent behaviors." The Alabama Legislature enacted section 6-5-530, Ala. Code 1975, "on the heels" of the Alabama Supreme Court's decision in Wyeth, Inc. v. Weeks, 159 So. 3d 649 (2014). In addressing the Weeks decision, section 6-5-530 specifically provided that a plaintiff who is suing based on personal injury, death, or property damage caused by a product "must prove ... that the defendant designed, manufactured, sold, or leased the particular product the use of which is alleged to have caused the injury on which the claim is based" regardless of the type of claims or theory of liability the plaintiff asserts. Because this case was a permissive appeal, the questions before the Supreme Court were limited to whether 6-5-530 effectively overruled Weeks, and whether a manufacturer could be held liable for an injury caused by a product it did not manufacture. The Court determined Section 6-5-530 abrogated Weeks: a pharmaceutical manufacturer cannot be held liable for injury caused by a product it did not manufacture. Based on the Court's answer to the trial court's certified question in the permissive appeal, it reversed the trial court's order denying Forest's motion for a summary judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Forest Laboratories, LLC v. Feheley, Sr." on Justia Law

by
In July 2012, Dr. William Sullivan prescribed Remicade, a medication manufactured by Janssen Biotech, Inc. ("JBI"), to Tim McKenzie as a treatment for Tim's psoriatic arthritis. Tim thereafter received Remicade intravenously every two weeks until November 2014, when he developed severe neuropathy causing significant weakness, the inability to walk without assistance, and the loss of feeling in, and use of, his hands and arms. Although Tim stopped receiving Remicade at that time, he and his wife, Sherrie, alleged they were not told that Remicade was responsible for his injuries. In December 2015, Tim traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to receive treatment for his neuropathy. The McKenzies stated that while at the Mayo Clinic, Tim was eventually diagnosed with demyelinating polyneuropathy, and doctors told them that it was likely caused by the Remicade. In 2016, the McKenzies sued JBI and Dr. Sullivan in Alabama Circuit Court, asserting failure-to-warn, negligence, breach-of-warranty, fraud, and loss-of-consortium claims. The complaint filed by the McKenzies was not signed, but it indicated it had been prepared by Sherrie, who was not only a named plaintiff, but also an attorney and active member of the Alabama State Bar. Keith Altman, an attorney from California admitted pro hac vice in November 2017, assisted with the preparation of the complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court found it apparent from even a cursory review of the complaint, that it was copied from a complaint filed in another action. The complaint included numerous factual and legal errors, including an assertion that Tim was dead even though he was alive, and claims invoking the laws of Indiana even though that state had no apparent connection to this litigation. The trial court struck the McKenzies' initial complaint because it was not signed as required by Rule 11(a) and because it contained substantial errors and misstatements of fact and law. The trial court later dismissed the failure-to-warn and negligence claims asserted by the McKenzies in a subsequent amended complaint because that amended complaint was not filed until after the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations applicable to those claims. Because the trial court acted within the discretion granted it by Rule 11(a) when it struck the McKenzies' initial complaint and because the McKenzies did not establish that the applicable statute of limitations should have been tolled, the trial court's order dismissing the McKenzies' claims as untimely was properly entered. View "McKenzie v. Janssen Biotech, Inc." on Justia Law