Expert Testimony Required Under Massachusetts Law to Prove Claims Against Pharmaceutical Company for Injuries Caused by Medication

Most medications have side effects, but some medications can cause more harm than good. If you sustained injuries or illness caused by adverse effects of medication, you may be entitled to recover damages. To recover on a claim against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, under Massachusetts personal injury law you must present expert evidence regarding the cause of your injuries. In Jackson v. Johnson, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, due to Plaintiff’s failure to produce sufficient expert evidence in support of his claims. If you suffered injuries due to side effects caused by medication, it is essential to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure the evidence necessary to support your claim is obtained.

Facts of the Case

In Jackson, Plaintiff alleged he was prescribed anti-psychotic medication, which caused him to become obese and develop diabetes and gynecomastia. Plaintiff sued defendant pharmaceutical manufacturer, setting forth claims arising out of negligence (negligence, negligent failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation and negligent infliction of emotional distress), breach of warranty (breach of warranty and breach of express warranty), products liability (strict products liability and strict products liability failure to warn), fraudulent concealment, and unfair and deceptive practices. After Plaintiff filed his lawsuit he sought and received several extensions of the deadlines for completing discovery and for filing disclosures of the experts who he would call on to support his claims. Plaintiff eventually provided disclosures for three of his treating physicians, whom he identified as experts. Defendant subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, asking the court to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff argued that the Motion was premature, as discovery had not yet been completed. The court granted Defendant’s Motion.

Ruling of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

In its analysis of the case, the court stated that additional time for conducting discovery was not warranted. Specifically, the court held that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that additional time would change the outcome of the Motion for Summary Judgment. The court explained that for Plaintiff to recover under Massachusetts law for his claims based in negligence and breach of warranty and his unfair and deceptive practices claim, he must show medical causation for his purported injuries. The court went on to say that Plaintiff failed to adduce any evidence that any additional discovery would be likely to result in the production of testimony from an expert that would meet the burden imposed on Plaintiff regarding causation.

The court noted that to recover from a manufacturer in a pharmaceutical personal injury case a plaintiff must prove both general and specific causation. General causation is evidence that shows the drug could cause a plaintiff’s injury, while specific causation shows the drug did in fact cause a plaintiff’s particular injury. The court elaborated that to show specific injury, Plaintiff must show both that the drug was the “but for” cause of his injuries and that it was a substantial factor in causing him harm.

Further, the court held that under Massachusetts law, medical causation was beyond the understanding of the average layperson and required an expert opinion. The court stated that none of the expert disclosures produced by Plaintiff indicated any of Plaintiff’s experts could opine that the drug in question could cause or did cause Plaintiff’s alleged injuries, as required to prove general and specific causation. Further, the court explained that Massachusetts did not recognize causes of action for strict product liability. Lastly, the court held that Plaintiff had insufficient evidence to support his breach of warranty or fraudulent concealment claims. As such, the court granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, dismissing Plaintiff’s claims.

Consult a Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you believe you suffered adverse effects due to medication, you may be entitled to damages. In seeking compensation from a pharmaceutical manufacturer, it is important to consult with a skilled personal injury attorney who will aggressively pursue the evidence needed to support your claim. The personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the knowledge and experience needed to assist injured parties in recovering the compensation they are rightfully owed. Contact us at 508-822-6600 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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