Walking a Fine Line: Are SSRIs Really Depression Wonder Drugs or Threats to Patient Safety? Smith v. Pfizer — (Pace Law Review)

SSRI Ed note: Man on Zoloft stabs wife and kids, commits suicide. Wife lives, sues Pfizer. Co. gets off on grounds that expert, Dr. Maltsberger, not qualified to testify.

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Pace Law Review

Volume 26, Issue #2, Spring 2006

Aisling V. O’Sullivan

Smith v. Pfizer was decided three days after Tobin was affirmed.   In this case, the decedent, Daryl Dempsay, stabbed his wife and two children, and then committed suicide.    The plaintiffs’ claims against  Pfizer were for failure to test and to warn, and marketing defects and  misrepresentations.   The decedent’s wife claimed that her husband’s  ingestion of Zoloft had caused his violent outbreak.   In response, the defense filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that plaintiffs  failed to establish general causation, inadequate testing or warnings, and wanted to exclude testimony from plaintiffs’ expert witness. Specifically, the defense attacked the plaintiffs’ only expert witness, Dr. Maltsberger, claiming that he was not qualified to give his opinion on a potential causal link between Zoloft, akathisia, and violent behavior. The plaintiffs tried to counter the defense’s attack on general  causation by presenting the testimony from Tobin, and explaining that  Dr. Maltsberger was allowed to testify as an expert witness in that case.   However, the Smith court distinguished Tobin explaining that  the Tobin court allowed expert testimony relating to general causation based on the plaintiffs’ other expert, Dr. Healy, and not from Dr.  Maltsberger.   The Smith court explained that Dr. Healy was qualified  to give an opinion on a connection between Zoloft and violence to  establish general causation. 06 The Smith court concluded that Dr. Maltsberger was not qualified to testify on general causation, but allowed Dr. Maltsberger to testify on specific causation.’0 7 Since the plaintiffs had no other expert witnesses at trial to testify to general causation, the court granted the defense’s motion for summary judgment.