U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

BigLaw Partner Paxil Suicide Judgment Reversed

Last year, a jury returned a sizable verdict against GlaxoSmithKline, for the widow of a BigLaw partner that took his own life while on anti-depressant medication.

The case alleged that the maker of the anti-depressant Paxil failed to adequately warn adult users of the risk of suicide. The drug maker argued that it was the stress of BigLaw that drove him to it. But, despite the fact that a jury found the drug maker liable, on appeal, as it turned out, the jury shouldn't have even had the chance. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the $3 million jury verdict and remanded with instructions to dismiss.

Unable to Warn and Federal Preemption

Interestingly, the deceased attorney didn't actually take the name brand drug, Paxil, but rather had been taking a generic. However, under FDA guidelines, generics are required to provide the exact same warnings as the name brand versions.

Additionally, while the case centered around GSK's failure to warn of the risk of suicide, the appellate court noted that the company did actually try to get a suicide warning, but was prevented by the FDA.

The critical flaw in the case, according to the appellate court, involved federal preemption. The case was brought under Illinois law, and while the federal district court did not find preemption, the appellate court did. The FDA issued a blanket order that all drugs in the same class as Paxil (including the generics) "required new uniform warning labels."

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