Motus vs Pfizer — (United States District Court, C.D. California)

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United States District Court, C.D. California

December 20, 2001

Six days after Dr. Gerald Trostler prescribed Zoloft to Victor Motus, Mr. Motus took his life. His widow, Flora Motus, sued Zoloft’s manufacturer, Pfizer Inc., for failing to adequately warn that Zoloft can cause those who ingest it to commit suicide. She alleges five claims: (1) “wrongful death/negligence”; (2) strict liability; (3) “survival action”; (4) fraud; and (5) breach of warranty. Each of Ms. Motus’s claims is premised on the allegation that Pfizer’s “package insert and marketing materials do not warn . . . that [Zoloft] can cause some people to think and act in violent or suicidal ways.” First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) ¶ 20. She alleges that Pfizer’s failure to warn of this risk caused her husband to commit suicide. FAC ¶ 28(d) (wrongful death/negligence claim); ¶ 38 (strict liability); ¶ 50-52 (fraud); ¶ 59 (breach of warranty).

Pfizer now moves for summary judgment on the ground that Ms. Motus cannot prove that its alleged failure to warn or inadequate warning caused her injury. Pfizer argues that Ms. Motus has no evidence that Dr. Trostler would have acted differently had adequate warnings been provided. The Court agrees with Pfizer, and accordingly grants it summary judgment on all claims.

Dr. Trostler stated that he relied solely on his “training and experience” in making his clinical evaluation that Mr. Motus was depressed. Id. at 83, 86. He admitted that he prescribed drugs without having previously reviewed the package insert, and that he first reviewed the package insert for Zoloft after Mr. Motus committed suicide. Id. at 88-89; SGI ¶¶ 8-9.2 Dr. Trostler stated that his “clinical experience” was the “ultimate determinant” for whether he would prescribe a drug, and that he would not prescribe a drug based on what a drug representative told him if he had concerns about a drug’s safety or effectiveness. Id. at 90.

When asked: “In deciding to prescribe Mr. Motus Zoloft, did you rely specifically on any statements made to you by Pfizer representatives?,” Dr. Trostler replied, “No.” When asked: “Did you rely on any materials provided to you by Pfizer sales representatives in making your decision to prescribe Zoloft to Mr. Motus?,” Dr. Trostler replied, “No.” Id. at 91-92; 123-24. When asked: “Did any written material provided to you by a Pfizer representative regarding Zoloft cause you to prescribe Zoloft to Mr. Motus?,” Dr. Trostler replied, Dr.  “No.”

Ms. Motus points to no evidence establishing that Dr. Trostler would have acted differently had Pfizer provided an adequate warning about the alleged risk that Zoloft causes those who ingest it to commit suicide. She is therefore unable to create a genuine issue as to whether Pfizer’s alleged failure to provide an adequate warning caused her injuries. All of Plaintiff’s claims are premised to some extent on the allegation the Pfizer’s failure to warn caused her injuries. Accordingly, Defendant is entitled to summary judgment.