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Victory in the Court of Appeal (November 20, 2008) 

San Francisco—The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco issued a published opinion affirming a summary judgment entered by Hanson Bridgett LLP on behalf of their client, Pliva, Inc., a manufacturer of generic drugs. The decision holds that brand-name pharmaceutical manufacturers may be liable for failing to warn of a drug's dangers, even if the plaintiff consumed only the generic version, and not the name-brand version, of the drug that allegedly caused the harm. 

The Court's ruling reactivated part of a former lawsuit by Elizabeth Ann Conte, who developed tardive dyskinesia, an incurable neurological disorder that causes repeated and involuntary muscle movements. The plaintiff maintains that the generic drug which she took for nearly four years to relieve acid reflux caused her to develop the disorder. She sued Wyeth Inc., which makes the brand-name version of the drug, Reglan, claiming that it did not sufficiently warn doctors of the risks of its long-term use. 

The First District Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in favor of Wyeth and affirmed the summary judgment in favor of each of the three generic manufacturers, including Hanson Bridgett's client, Pliva. The trial court had granted judgment for the generic defendants on the issue of federal preemption, but the Court of Appeal declined to address that ruling, opting to sustain the judgment based on the causation argument raised by Hanson Bridgett alone. The initial San Francisco Superior Court judgment also held that Wyeth could not be held liable because it had no obligation to the users of the generic version of the drug. Justice Peter Siggins of the First District Court of Appeal observed that doctors could reasonably be anticipated to rely on Wyeth's product warnings when writing prescriptions, even when filled with a generic version of the drug. 

"The decision is remarkable because the Court resolved an issue of first impression in California against Wyeth, the brand name manufacturer," said Merton A. Howard, Chair of Hanson Bridgett's Product Liability Practice and lead partner on the case. "Prior rulings have held that manufacturers cannot be sued for harm caused by drugs they did not actually make or sell." 

Hanson Bridgett's team included partner Merton A. Howard as well as associate Jill N. Cartwright and senior counsel members Eric W. Junginger and Christina M. Nugent. 

Hanson Bridgett Public Relations:

P: 415-995-5075, F: 415-541-9366 

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Hanson Bridgett is a law firm with more than 150 attorneys in offices in San Francisco, Sacramento, the North Bay, Silicon Valley and the East Bay. Serving clients since 1958, we are well known in Northern California and have earned a national reputation in many of our practice areas.

Our diverse client list includes large national and global companies as well as many governmental entities, regional businesses and individuals. While we keep true to our California roots, our work increasingly takes us across state and national borders.

Michelle Klopp
Hanson Bridgett LLP
425 Market Street, 26th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

415-995-5075 Direct Phone
415-541-9366 Fax

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