ESPINOZA vs ELI LILLY — (United States District Court)

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Jose G. ESPINOZA, and Minnie T. Espinoza, Plaintiffs,  and  Michael Blanchard, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of Ross Allen Blanchard, and the Administrator of the Estate of Rene Marie Blanchard, Plaintiff,

United States District Court, D. Vermont
July 25, 2000.

On September 7, 1997,  in Randolph, Vermont, Elvira S. Espinoza (“Vera,” “Ms. Espinoza”) shot and killed both of her children and then herself. At the time of the murder-suicide, she was being treated for depression in Vermont with Lilly’s antidepressant fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac. Her treating physician was located in Vermont. Lilly is an Indiana corporation.

On September 7, 1999, Ms. Espinoza’s parents filed suit against Lilly in their home town of Corpus Christi, Texas, under the Texas Wrongful Death Act, Tex. Civ. Pract. & Rem.Code § 71.001, et seq. The act, as amended in 1975, specifically confers a cause of action for a wrongful death occurring in another state. § 71.031. In their complaint, the Espinozas claim that Ms. Espinoza’s ingestion of Prozac caused her to commit suicide. Plaintiffs seek wrongful death damages, claiming that Lilly is strictly liable for alleged design defects, marketing defects and/or representations, and that Lilly’s alleged conduct was negligent.

The Estate of Elvira S. Espinoza was opened in the Vermont Probate Court, District of Orange, on September 3, 1999 as docket number # OeP2662-99EI. Michael Blanchard, Ms. Espinoza’s ex-husband, was appointed administrator of the estate. Although Blanchard sought appointment as the personal representative of Vera Espinoza’s estate, he was not her next of kin at the time of her death, as Blanchard and Espinoza were divorced. With Blanchard’s consent, the Orange Probate Court substituted Jose Espinoza as the personal representative of his daughter’s estate on April 19, 2000.

…Lilly has been on notice of this suit through the Espinozas’ filings in Texas, as well as through Blanchard’s filings in Vermont. Thus, no showing of prejudice to the defendant, nor of intentional dilatory practices on the part of the Espinozas for personal or tactical reasons has been made in this case. Therefore, summary judgment in favor of Defendant is inappropriate in this case, and Plaintiffs are granted leave to amend.