GSK To Face Trial Over Reed Smith Partner’s Suicide


Scott Flaherty, The Am Law Daily January 13, 2016    | 0 Comments

GlaxoSmithKline headquaters.
GlaxoSmithKline headquaters.
Credit: Maxwell Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons

More than five years ago, Reed Smith partner Stewart Dolin killed himself at a Chicago train station, leaving behind a wife, two children and a sucessful career. Now his widow has moved a step closer to trial in a case accusing GlaxoSmithKline LLC of hiding the suicide risks of its blockbuster antidepressant Paxil and contributing to Dolin’s death.

Wendy Dolin has been pursuing negligence and fraud claims against GSK since August 2012. About two years earlier, in July 2010, Stewart Dolin went to Chicago Transit Authority station on his lunch break and died after stepping in front of an oncoming train. A medical examiner deemed the death a suicide, and an autopsy confirmed the presence of a generic version of GSK’s antidepressant Paxil, according to court documents.

On Tuesday U.S. District Judge James Zagel in Chicago declined to rule on a pair of motions that GSK’s defense lawyers at King & Spalding and Dentons filed last year, hoping to scuttle the case before trial. In a brief docket entry, the judge explained that he won’t make a decision on GSK’s summary judgment motions before a trial scheduled to begin on Sept. 19.

Stewart Dolin, pictured right in an undated photo, was 57 and a co-chair of Reed Smith’s corporate and securities group when he died.

In the lawsuit, Wendy Dolin’s lawyers at Los Angeles-based personal injury firm Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman allege that the suicide came just six days after the Reed Smith partner began taking a generic version of Paxil to treat anxiety and depression.

The complaint accuses GSK of failing to include a warning on Paxil’s labeling that the drug has ties to suicidal behavior in adults. At the time of Dolin’s death, according to the suit, Paxil’s labeling only referenced an association with suicide risk among people aged 24 and younger. Dolin’s lawyers, led by Baum Hedlund’s Brent Wisner, also lodged broader accusations that GSK knew about Paxil’s association with suicide in adults and deliberately concealed that information for decades.

The suit also initially made related claims against Mylan Inc., the drug company that manufactured the generic Paxil that Stewart Dolin actually took. Zagel, however, dismissed Mylan in 2014, finding the claims against the generic maker were preempted by federal drug labeling law.

GSK, defended by Atlanta-based King & Spalding partners Andrew Bayman and Todd Davis and Chicago-based lawyers from Dentons, has denied Dolin’s allegations. The company’s defense lawyers lodged a pair of summary judgment motions in late July, arguing that GSK should be cleared of any liability on multiple grounds.

One of those motions focused on a federal preemption argument. At the time of Stewart Dolin’s suicide, GSK’s lawyers wrote, the company hadn’t been required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to include warnings about suicide risks associated with Paxil for patients older than 24.

A separate GSK motion seeks to undermine other aspects of the suit, including allegations that Stewart Dolin’s doctor didn’t know about Paxil’s full suicide risks before prescribing it. The defense lawyers also reiterated that Dolin had taken a generic version of Paxil, made by Mylan, before the suicide.

“A plaintiff must establish that it was the defendant’s product that actually caused the alleged harm,” GSK’s legal team wrote in support of the summary judgment motion, which was made publicly available in October. “It remains undisputed that Mr. Dolin never ingested GSK’s product Paxil.”

Dolin’s contested both motions in court, but at a status hearing on Tuesday, Zagel put off his ultimate decision on the issues until sometime after the trial begins.

King & Spalding’s Davis referred a request for comment to GSK. In a statement, a company spokeswoman noted that the company’s summary judgment motions remain pending with the court and that Dolin had not been taking brand-name Paxil.

Baum Hedlund’s Wisner, who represents Dolin, said in an email on Wednesday that he’s encouraged that the judge declined to rule on GSK’s pretrial motions.

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