Federal Appellate Court Dismisses Lexapro Product Liability Suit Pending in Massachusetts Federal District Court – Marcus v. Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Product liability cases can run the gamut from household items to automobiles to medical devices and drugs. One particular drug, an antidepressant manufactured by Forest Pharmaceuticals and commonly known as “Lexapro,” recently came under fire in the case of Marcus v. Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Lexapro, which belongs to a class of antidepressants known as “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,” was first approved to treat adults for depression in 2002. It was later approved for use in adolescents.

The case was originally filed in a federal court in California in May 2013 and sought certification as a class action lawsuit. It was moved to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation because of ongoing multidistrict litigation there concerning Lexapro.

Allegations in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint

The plaintiffs in the case were parents whose adolescent son was prescribed Lexapro for depression in April 2009. The basis of their complaint was that the defendant pharmaceutical company omitted material efficacy information in violation of California state consumer protection laws. They averred that Lexapro’s label overestimated the effectiveness of the drug, thereby misleading both the parents and their son’s doctor. According to the parents, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted questionable and flawed data offered by the pharmaceutical company regarding Lexapro’s effectiveness for the treatment of adolescent depression. The parents further averred that Lexapro is, in actuality, “no more clinically effective than a placebo.” They sought to certify a class of all Californians who purchased Lexapro for an adolescent from March 2009 until present.

The Defendant’s Motion and the District Court’s Order

The pharmaceutical company sought dismissal of the parents’ complaint, arguing that the suit was precluded by the California safe harbor doctrine or preemption under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The district court dismissed the complaint solely on the basis of the California’s safe harbor doctrine, and the parents appealed.

The Decision on Appeal

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the parents’ complaint but relied solely on federal, rather than state, grounds. Expressing no view on the California safe harbor doctrine’s applicability, the court found that federal law impliedly preempted the parents’ claims because the FDCA prohibited the pharmaceutical company from independently changing its FDA-approved label, as the parents claimed California law required.

According to the appellate court, it made more sense to review the issue in terms of federal law first, instead of either interpreting California state law on the issue or certifying the issue to the California Supreme Court. Since the parents’ complaint was preempted under federal law, the appellate court found that it was unnecessary for it to reach the state law question.

To Speak to an Experienced Product Liability Lawyer

Product liability litigation can be complex, involving multiple defendants and a wide array of issues. If you believe that you or a loved one has been hurt because of a defective product, you need to speak to an attorney who can guide you through the process of holding those who designed, manufactured, or sold the product accountable. The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III can assist you with your case. Call us at (888) 262-6664 to schedule a free initial consultation. Our Cape Cod attorneys handle cases in Hyannis, Plymouth, and throughout Massachusetts. If you are not able to come into the office, we can usually arrange for a home or hospital visit to discuss your case.

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